Retailers call for trading without borders


It was announced December 8, that a breakthrough deal had finally been reached, allowing Brexit talks to move onto the future of trade.

This announcement came after a week of negotiations following the DUP ruling out anything in the proposal that treated Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK.

Claiming she had secured ‘six substantial changes’ to the text, leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster said: “There is no red line down the Irish sea and clear confirmation that the entirety of the UK is leaving the European Union, leaving the single market and leaving the customs union”

However, the Prime Minister made it clear that the UK government pledged to continue to follow EU rules on trade and goods to support relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Even if there is no Brexit deal, Theresa May outlined plans to fully align with the rules of the single market and customs union in order to make the transition as smooth as possible for the people on the island of Ireland.

Speaking to retailers close to the border, Neighbourhood Retailer found that the general consensus in the industry is for a soft border.

Una Lilley, owner of Lilley’s Centra & Topaz Service Station in Fermanagh commented: “I don’t anticipate any other result. An arrangement that doesn’t allow free trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic would be economically damaging to all businesses and I don’t imagine a hard border could ever come into place for this reason.”

Although Theresa May’s pledge is mostly viewed with optimism by the sector, others are apprehensive that nothing has been confirmed yet.

Allistair Long of Long’s Supermarkets said: “We do have some concerns about Brexit in the future, especially with our position in Londonderry. However, despite recent talks no one can ever really tell what the future will bring, and we hope to continue trading as successfully as we have done in previous years.”

It’s not just Northern retailers with cause for concern either, at the McCaughey’s 24-hour service station in Bloomfield, Co.Monaghan Raylene McCaughey is trying to stay optimistic.

“There is a lot of uncertainty around Brexit and with our location on the border, we have been concerned about how we might be affected,” said Raylene. “But we have had a great take up on all of our Christmas merchandise and we’re staying hopeful for the future.”

Trade associations are also hopeful of a positive outcome for the island of Ireland. Federation of Small Businesses, NI Policy Chair Wilfred Mitchell said:

“Northern Ireland’s small businesses will be pleased to hear that finally it appears Brexit talks are about to move onto the second stage.

“As we leave the EU, businesses will need to continue to be able to find the workers and skills they require, and today’s pledge is an encouraging sign of a sensible pro-business attitude.

“On Northern Ireland, we look forward to further progress being made in the next phase of the Brexit talks, but welcome the commitment to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and addition east-west trade barriers.”

Chief executive for Retail NI, Glyn Roberts said: “No borders on the island of Ireland or in the Irish seas were the bottom line in our presentation to the House of Commons Brexit Select Committee. We are pleased this is an essential part of the deal.

“Now more than ever we need the Executive restored and to have local ministers ensuring Northern Ireland’s voice is heard loud and clear in these challenging times.”

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