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Response to Theresa May's Brexit Speech

The Londonderry Chamber of Commerce has expressed concern over the future of the Irish border, following the speech by Theresa May on Brexit.

Chief executive Sinead McLaughlin said:

“It is a relief that the Prime Minister has provided some outline on the Government’s plans for the Brexit negotiations, but the details are not in line with the objectives of businesses in the North West of Ireland.  Our members, overwhelmingly, have expressed a desire to retain membership of the European Single Market and the Customs Union.  It seems they will have neither.

“There is a lack of clarity with regard to customs tariffs.  If cross-border transactions become subject to tariffs, this will be a major disruption to local trade.  This provides a major concern to us.

“We are even more worried about what will happen to the border.  The Prime Minister refers to there being ‘no return to the border of the past’ – but that sounds as if she accepts there will be a hard border of some kind, especially as she also hinted that there will be migration controls on the border.

“While we welcome the desire to retain the Common Travel Area, our members are seeking much more than this. There are major daily flows of commuters going to work or study.  Will those journeys be disrupted?  While it sounds as if Irish citizens will have the continued right to visit Northern Ireland, will they also still have the right to reside and work in the north? 

“We are also deeply worried about the future for cross-border businesses and those in the agri-food sector. Many companies have bases on both sides of the border.  It is unclear how customs tariffs would affect them.  And if the UK ends up with the abolition of agricultural subsidies and tariff-free food trade with South America, the result could be the near total destruction of Northern Ireland’s agri-food industry – one of our largest sectors.

“Scotland’s and Wales’ devolved administrations are supplying papers to lobby for the interests of their citizens.  It seems that Northern Ireland is not doing so.  This means that the interests of our citizens are not being protected by our administration, which is in the process of being laid-off.  This leaves the people of Northern Ireland, and particularly those in the border regions, without effective representation during the onset of the Brexit negotiations.  This is unacceptable.”