A Londonderry Chamber delegation has welcomed the EU’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom to the North West to discuss key Brexit challenges ahead of the end of the transition period.
João Vale de Almeida, the EU’s first official Ambassador to the UK after Britain left the union in January, met with the Chamber’s Chief Executive, President, and Vice-President on Thursday evening to hear first-hand the concerns of local companies as the negotiations between the UK and the EU on the future of trade across the UK and Ireland have appeared to stall in recent weeks.
Ambassador Vale de Almeida’s comes at a critical time as the transition period comes to an end on 31 December 2020. The UK Government’s recently-published Internal Market Bill and attempts to sidestep the agreed NI Protocol as part of the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement has caused serious concern among businesses in NI and with EU negotiators.
Paul Clancy, Chief Executive, Derry Chamber, said: “The Chamber was pleased to welcome Ambassador Vale de Almeida to the North West and his engagement here was very timely and useful. Despite Brexit being firmly back in the headlines in recent weeks, businesses in Northern Ireland are none the wiser about what the end of the transition period will mean for their operations. Significant uncertainty is terrible for business confidence and companies across the North West are rightly concerned about possible new barriers to trade.
“The UK Government’s recent attempts to breach the previously agreed NI Protocol with the introduction of the Internal Market Bill has added to the anxieties of businesses here and the Chamber is concerned about the impact this will have on the negotiations and relationship between the EU and the UK. We urged the Ambassador to ensure the EU explores every avenue to ensure north-south, as well as east-west, trade is protected and remains open to business across Northern Ireland. We were impressed by the Ambassador’s commitment to protecting the essence of the Good Friday Agreement, which is vital to the stability of our society and economy in Northern Ireland, and he reaffirmed the EU’s efforts to avoid any return to a hard border in our region.
“The future prosperity of the North West – in both Derry and Donegal – will be contingent on a constructive relationship between the EU and the UK and a positive conclusion to their negotiations. With under three months until the end of the transition period, we are concerned that talks have stalled, and we are urging both sides to refocus their minds on getting a deal which protects across our islands.”
Redmond McFadden, President, Derry Chamber, said: “Ambassador Vale de Almeida’s visit to the North West is indicative of the importance of Brexit to our region. As a border economy and community, Brexit presents a particular challenge to our businesses, workers, and families. Ambassador Vale de Almeida’s visit to Derry highlights the very real concerns local people and firms have about what Brexit could bring to our region.
“Businesses need urgent clarity over what 1st January 2021 will look like for their trading operations. Any new barriers to business are unthinkable and would compound the devastating impact which Covid-19 has had on our local economy. We hope that both the EU and UK will work productively between now and the European Council meeting on 15th October to reach an agreement which will protect NI businesses, ensure unfettered trade between our existing trading partners, and grant much-needed certainty for local companies.”