Speaking at the CBI Northern Ireland Annual Lunch in Belfast, John will say that Northern Irish businesses want to protect their position in the UK’s internal market and across the island of Ireland - so they can invest, grow and contribute to their local communities.
John Allan CBE, CBI President, will say:
“Businesses will welcome steps towards a deal that guarantees the rights of 4 million citizens living abroad in the UK and EU and opens a pathway to a new UK-EU partnership.
“But for them it’s not as simple as ‘getting Brexit done’. Firms have known for some time that this is just the start of years of further talks, treaties, and tête-à-têtes. But companies have serious concerns about the current direction of the future relationship.
“The political declaration, in its current form, would end decades of free and frictionless trade with our largest trading partners, forged by firms big and small. It would add huge cost and complexity across some of the UK’s world-leading industries. And it falls a long way short on services, which make up just under 80% of the Northern Ireland economy.
“Here in Northern Ireland, we need urgent clarity from the UK Government about how they intend to protect Northern Ireland’s place in the internal market. Because Northern Ireland businesses simply cannot afford for the next phase of Brexit to drain investment and growth at the level we’ve seen over the past 3 years.”
On the all-Island economy, John will say:
“If common ground can be found on Brexit, just imagine what we could achieve with the enormous potential of an all-island economy.
“Earlier this month, at the CBI/IBEC conference we looked at exactly how businesses in the North can build greater economic co-operation with the Republic of Ireland. By connecting road and rail across the North and South, pushing towards zero carbon, the electrification of vehicles and public infrastructure on both sides of the island.
“This could be our compelling vision of economic inclusion. Supporting a population of 10 million people across the island - improving lives and tackling deprivation in both jurisdictions.
“This is our chance to get it right. Even more, with a power sharing Executive in Stormont to make it happen.”
On access to talent in Northern Ireland, John will say:
“Businesses are achieving amazing things all over Northern Ireland. We must keep those success stories going. But to do that, Northern Ireland needs people.
“96% of our members here say skills shortages are a growing problem, with a particularly concerning gap in digital skills - cloud computing, data analytics and other technical subjects. A need that will surely grow in coming years.
“So how do we meet this challenge? One recent solution is a digital skills action plan for Northern Ireland.
“Next month, the CBI will be launching a new report outlining exactly what this plan could look like. Recommendations include removing barriers in the existing immigration system, harnessing the insight of NI businesses to understand skills needs, and getting the right funding to the right places, particularly in further education.”