Ibec CEO Danny McCoy today met British Prime Minister Theresa May, Brexit Secretary David Davis and Business Secretary Greg Clark in Downing St as part of a delegation of key EU business federations, where he stressed the need for urgent progress in Brexit talks.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr McCoy said: “The message to the UK government was clear, business is increasingly frustrated and concerned at the lack of progress in negotiations. To move past the first phase of talks, which covers Ireland, the financial settlement and citizens’ rights, we need practical solutions and firm commitments, not just rhetoric.”
At the meeting Mr McCoy set out a number of immediate and specific Irish business concerns. “EU and UK businesses will need an extended transition period to plan and adapt to any new EU-UK trading relationship. This period should ensure continuity with existing trading terms. Short-term and short-sighted political pressures must not overtake the overriding and obvious economic rationale for such arrangements,” said Mr McCoy.
“The UK has yet to match its stated commitment to a soft border on the island of Ireland with practical proposals to achieve this. A new approach is needed. The creation of new customs and regulatory barriers on the island of Ireland must be avoided.
“Safeguarding the Good Friday Agreement and the future functioning of the all-island economy must not be just an Irish/EU priority, the UK must step up to the mark.
“The East-West aspect of the Good Friday Agreement, which covers the "totality of relationships" between Ireland and Britain, has received limited attention over the years. Our shared EU membership meant close business and economic cooperation was taken for granted. However, Brexit changes that. It is imperative that the legally enshrined commitment to promote greater cooperation between the UK and Ireland is not a casualty of Brexit. A concerted, structured focus is now needed to safeguard this intrinsic aspect of the Agreement.
“While the meeting itself is testimony to an increasing recognition in Downing St that business and economic concerns need to better inform the UK approach, the unstable political backdrop remains a concern. The polarised and fraught nature of the British debate is not conducive to the sophisticated compromises needed to steer the country away from a divisive, damaging divorce.
“While EU-UK relations have and will continue to come under strain as negotiations progress, it is important to remind ourselves that UK fortunes will be linked to those of the EU, even after Brexit. The closest possible future relationship is in all our interests.”