The Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association (NIIRTA) has expressed concern with the Prime Ministers announcement that the UK leaving the EU Single Market and Customs Union will have a negative impact on Northern Ireland and its border with the Republic.
NIIRTA Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: “It is very clear the Prime Minister has decided on a hard Brexit by indicating the UK is leaving both the EU Single Market and Customs Union. This is clearly not good news for Northern Ireland, nor the border with the Republic, despite vague assurances around ‘no return to the borders of the past.
“What should happen is that Governments in Dublin, Belfast and London must ensure that Brexit does not result in the hardening of the border and that no barriers whatsoever are placed on trade or workers from across the EU.
“EU Nationals currently working in Northern Ireland make a huge contribution to our local retail, hospitality and food sectors and it is good news that the PM has given assurance that they will still be welcome here whatever Brexit may bring and we repeat our call that they should not be used as a bargaining chip in the negotiations.
“Disentangling the UK from the EU is going to be both time consuming and tricky and we need to ensure that we leave on the best possible terms with our European partners.
“Northern Ireland needs some degree of special status in its relationship with the EU and we call upon the NIO to produce a draft model of what that will look like, which could form the basis of negotiations.
“Whatever new relationship is made with the EU, it must reflect Northern Ireland’s unique circumstances. A post-Brexit Northern Ireland needs to be a self-confident, outward looking innovative region, which is the very best place in the UK and Ireland to locate or start a business.”