Brexit update: What’s next for independent retailers?

In a time of political turbulence for retailers and traders across the country, we bring you the latest of all you need to know regarding Brexit.

Last night, there were two significant votes.

  • In one, MPs in the House of Commons voted in favour of an amendment that made it clear that a “No Deal” Brexit is simply not an option for the UK. Following that vote, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn agreed to meet Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss what Parliament should do.

However, the UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March, and will continue to do so whether a deal is agreed with or not unless legal changes are made before then.

  • In the other, MPs voted in favour of amending the Irish border backstop in Theresa May’s deal. The backstop has already caused a significant deal of controversy, with some critics saying it leaves Northern Ireland needing to follow more EU rules than the rest of the UK, and could create a “hard border” with checks and high security in place. Many also worry it could cause conflict across the border, depreciating the Good Friday Agreement.

Prime Minister Theresa May is set to go back to EU leaders to try to redraft this part of the deal to a version that will meet the approval of Parliament. However, various EU leaders have said this part of the deal cannot be renegotiated.

So what happens next?

If the EU refuses to reopen negotiations and the British parliament cannot compromise with what has already been agreed, the UK faces a “hard Brexit”. This means that the UK would crash out of the EU with no deal or transition period on March 29.

There are real concerns over the damage a “No Deal” could do. Delays in bringing food and materials into the UK could be caused, and the price of goods in British shops could sky rocket.

How has the Irish retail industry responded?

Many key players in the Irish retail industry have raised their own concerns about this to Parliament.

Glyn Roberts, Chief Executive Retail NI said: “It is not acceptable for Parliament to continue to create uncertainty. This is having consequences as is apparent in our businesses and in our high streets. I will be pleading with the leadership of the Opposition parties that they need to reach across the chamber and avoid a calamitous crashing out of the EU which will have dire impact on consumers and jobs”.

Meanwhile Stephen Kelly, Chief Executive Manufacturing NI said: “Our business community, farming representatives, trade unions and voluntary sectors agree that the Withdrawal Agreement whilst not perfect is workable and much better than no deal and its approval would secure the critical transition period, protect jobs and allow everyone to move to the more positive future relationship negotiations and agreement with the EU.”

For Owen Reidy, Assistant General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, it is simply vital that workers should not have to pay for the price of Brexit. He said: “The trade union movement represents over 200,000 workers across all areas of economic activity in Northern Ireland. We must have an agreement that safeguards jobs and workers rights’ and avoids a hard border in the island of Ireland, a border in the Irish sea and a border between our islands.”

Theresa May has promised the government will “redouble its efforts to get a deal this House can support”. The Prime Minister is to revise the deal before returning to the House of Commons to bring it to a vote. If no new deal is agreed by Parliament by 13 February, she will table an amendable motion for debate the next day.

 

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