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Chamber President says breakthrough on customs urgently needed

The President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce has said the North West economy will be decimated if there is no breakthrough on customs arrangements post-Brexit.

Brian McGrath was speaking to the North West’s largest gathering of business leaders at the Chamber’s Annual President’s Dinner in the Everglades Hotel.

The dinner was attended by over 350 people from more than 100 companies across Northern Ireland, including sponsors Frylite, O’Neill’s International Sportswear, FinTrU and packaging company Diamond.

Brian McGrath said the worst fears of the business community were about to be realised unless political leaders got together to hammer out a deal which solved the customs issue.

Mr McGrath said: “The future prosperity for unionists and nationalists and everybody else for that matter, is going to come down to how we manage customs. A deal which applies trade tariffs will decimate the economy at a regional and national level and we are on the front line.

“It is unacceptable that Northern Ireland is being put in a position where it must make a choice between North-South or East-West relationships. The decision is not a binary one and we cannot be party to a deal that puts 40,000 people out of work.

“This was understood by the First and deputy First Ministers who in September 2016 committed to the idea that special arrangements would be necessary for NI after Brexit.”

The warning comes as Northern Ireland also marks 1,000 days since the Executive collapsed.

Mr McGrath said:“At one of the most critical junctures in our recent history, we are still without an Executive. We are 1,000 days without leadership at Stormont and that is impeding progress.”

“Businesses in the North West simply want to get on with the day job and create jobs and prosperity. We have a multitude of skilled people and innovative companies working in incredibly diverse areas. There is much potential to harness, if the conditions are right.”

“What we have been saying consistently as a business community is that we can grow our businesses, create more jobs and deliver economic success, provided we are given the right tools to get the job done.”