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CBI chief: No-deal Brexit could put Irish economy on ice —permanently

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry. Photo: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A no-deal Brexit would be more than a temporary bump in the road for Ireland and could permanently hamper the island’s economy, according to the head of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Speaking on Thursday in Dublin, Carolyn Fairbairn called for a Brexit agreement that would facilitate an open Northern Ireland border and the continuation of frictionless trade on the island of Ireland.

Fairbairn said that anything else would derail the “inspiring” plans for an all-island economy in Ireland.

“A no-deal Brexit outcome would be more than short-run disruption [for Ireland]. It would be more than a temporary bump in the road,” she said.

“It would put this vision, this incredibly inspiring vision of an all-island economy, on ice — and perhaps permanently.”

The “lost opportunities” arising from the UK’s departure from the European Union are not talked about enough in the Brexit debate, Fairbairn said.

“It’s not just the disruption: it’s the lost opportunity of things that don’t happen. And let’s not allow the Irish economy and this exciting vision for an all-island economy to be one of them.”

On Tuesday, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney reportedly warned his government colleagues that the risk of a no-deal Brexit has never been greater.

Earlier this year, leading Irish business group IBEC and the Northern Ireland branch of the CBI warned that a no-deal Brexit would have “devastating economic consequences” for the whole island of Ireland.

READ MORE: Irish business groups warn against 'devastating' consequences of no-deal Brexit

Calling a no-deal scenario “an affront to rational thinking,” the groups said that it would “immediately put jobs and businesses at risk, and jeopardise years of positive economic development and integration across the island.”

Fairbairn was speaking in Trinity College Dublin, which will later on Tuesday officially open its new €70m (£62m) business school.

The CBI director-general did not address the swirling rumours around prime minister Theresa May’s fate as prime minister.

May this week began a last-ditch attempt to win over opposition MPs with a “bold, new” offer on the Brexit deal she is trying to get through parliament.

READ MORE: Troy plot to oust May spooks markets

But on Wednesday night, leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom resigned, and the pound (GBPUSD=X) continues to slide amid speculation that May will be forced to step down by the end of the week.