Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, today told the House of Commons Select Committee on Exiting the EU that the economic interests of both the EU and the UK would be best served by the UK remaining in a customs union with the EU. At a roundtable discussion with the Committee in Buswell’s Hotel, Dublin, Ibec CEO Danny McCoy also stressed the need for the UK to fully honour the far-reaching phase one joint agreement, which recognises that the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland require unique solutions to protect the Good Friday Agreement and support continued North-South and East-West trade and business. A soft border with Northern Ireland post-Brexit is essential for this to be achieved. The House of Commons Committee was visiting Dublin as part of an inquiry into the progress of the Brexit negotiations.
“It is vital that the clear commitment given in the form of a UK Government guarantee to avoid a hard border with Northern Ireland positively shape the final settlement. There can be no backtracking. This is important for exporters and importers, but also for companies investing across both jurisdictions. A final deal that delivers a close future relationship must be a shared goal. This must include regulatory alignment across all key sectors of the all-island economy and close cooperation into the future. Early agreement on how this can be achieved and a clear roadmap is crucial,” said Mr McCoy. He stressed that, in the absence of agreed solutions, full alignment is to be maintained with the rules of the Internal Market and the customs union that now and in the future support the all-island economy and so protect the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr McCoy continued: “The idea that the UK leaving the EU customs union will deliver massive new trade opportunities is a fallacy. It will create major new administrative costs, disrupt trade flows and put jobs at risk. Irish business is resolutely opposed to new trade and customs barriers and the CBI, on behalf of British business, set out its support for a customs union this week. It is vital that the evidence-based concerns of business inform the approach of all parties to negotiations.
“Even if the UK stays in a customs union, without a commitment to the single market significant problems for business remain. Future EU-UK regulatory alignment is vital to avoiding a major disruption to trade and supply chains. The future relationship needs to be firmly based on the established, existing shared rules, which already support millions of jobs and communities across Europe. UK fortunes will be linked to those of the EU, even after Brexit. The closest possible future relationship is in all our interests,” concluded Mr McCoy.