NI Companies Call for Negotiated Settlement in Protocol Legislation

Businesses in Northern Ireland have expressed concern over the impact of UK legislation to overturn the NI protocol.

While the protocol has brought friction and additional costs for some companies, others have found it opens up new business opportunities with the Republic and the EU.

Food companies in particular, such as sandwich maker Co Down Deli-Lites, have thus been able to boost their trade with the Republic.

Stuart Anderson, head of public affairs at NI Chamber, said the legislation contains proposals that would help businesses connect with consumers.

But he added: “A careful balance must be struck to protect the gains made to date by our exporters and agrifood sub-sectors.

“The apparent transfer of risk to NI’s business is of particular concern.

“As our businesses grapple with the challenge of soaring inflation, it is incumbent on the EU and the UK to resume talks without further delay.

“We are ready to play our part in supporting sustainable solutions that work for NI businesses and households.”

Brian Reid, head of Deli-Lites at Warrenpoint, said the worst-case scenario of a trade war if the legislation deepened the fallout between the UK and EU was “the last thing we need”.

“The benefits of the protocol could be huge for NI and even if it wasn’t perfect, negotiations can resolve anything that went wrong,” he said.

“The UK Government acting in this way is reckless and not in the interests of businesses here.”

Declan Gormley, head of ventilation systems company Brookvent in Dunmurry, described the legislation as “unwelcome, unnecessary, unprecedented and unpredictable” in its potential impact.

“A one-sided approach may appeal to some elements of the Conservative Party, but it will not work to achieve a thoughtful solution that the EU and the UK can accept, which solves the problems already identified and which everyone seems to agree that they can be solved.

“This kind of confrontational approach from the UK is not helpful and, from a trade and economic point of view, could have serious implications if it provokes a trade war with the EU…

“It is to be hoped that a more mature and thoughtful approach from the UK Government will emerge in the time ahead, leading to an agreed resolution with which all parties can agree in the future.

“Otherwise, I fear that the considerable economic benefits that NI plc enjoys through the existence of the protocol will be lost.”

Angela McGowan, CBI’s director for Northern Ireland, said: “Neither unilateral UK action nor EU inflexibility is helping, introducing uncertainty into an already weakened economic environment.

“Flexibility and compromise are needed on both sides. With political will, a landing zone can undoubtedly be found – using business insights to design long-lasting, sustainable solutions that smooth GB-NI trade flows.

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