As Theresa May placed the British negotiating team into reverse yesterday afternoon many in the business community here in the north realised that what they see as a best case scenario for Brexit is within their grasp.
In today’s Belfast Telegraph Seamus Lehany of the Freight Transport Association said that the proposals could “help attract inward investment and make the north “a bridge between the UK and EU”.
He called the potential deal “a good thing from the movement of goods and supply chains”.
“Ultimately it’s something we would welcome, that goods will not be inhibited across the border.”
President of the NI Chamber of Commerce Ellvena Graham urged negotiators to be pragmatic :
“The companies we work with want a trade relationship between the UK and the EU that is tariff free and which takes account of the all-island supply chain, particularly in the crucial agri-food sector.
“Northern Ireland Chamber has long been urging negotiators to reach a pragmatic agreement on withdrawal issues, so that we can move on swiftly to transition and trade talks.”
Manufacturing NI tweeted that :
“Being a bridge between the UK and the EU need not undermine sincerely held views on identity and would not require any additional barriers to trade. Instead, it would present an extraordinary opportunity to create more wealth and work.”
Alliance MLA Stephen Farry also sees the opportunity for the north to be a ‘bridge’ between Britain and the EU.
“This is about recognising the interdependent nature of the economy on the island of Ireland but also with the rest of the UK. This is not an either/or choice. Rather it allows Northern Ireland to be a bridge to both Europe and the rest of the UK. This could be a massive opportunity – a real economic game-changer for us.”
A week is a long time in politics and the argument that the north be a ‘bridge’ to Britain could soon be redundant if Theresa May decides that her best option is to put England, Scotland and Wales in regulatory alignment with the rest of the EU too.
Regardless of that its important that our local businesses and those representing them continue to make their voices heard and indeed, given the gravity of these talks, they to need to speak louder.