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

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Dublin’s financial district. A no-deal scenario would “profoundly exacerbate” the problems of Brexit for Ireland. Pic: Reuters

A no-deal Brexit would have “devastating economic consequences” for the whole island of Ireland, leading groups from both sides of the border have warned ahead of Tuesday’s House of Commons vote on UK prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

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.”

In a joint statement, leading Irish business group IBEC and the Northern Ireland branch of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said that May’s deal would limit post-Brexit disruptions to the two-nations’ economy, while a no-deal outcome “would result in an immediate and unprecedented economic shock.”

Their intervention comes after May’s last-ditch attempt to get her MPs to support the deal, which is widely expected to be defeated in Tuesday’s “meaningful vote.”

“Many firms across Northern Ireland simply could not cope with a no-deal Brexit,” said Angela McGowan, the director of the CBI’s Northern Ireland branch.

“Not only would it do significant harm to jobs, investment and living standards but it would put at risk the all-island economic model that has been an important factor in driving local prosperity.”

Around a third of Northern Ireland’s exports make the easy and seamless hop across the border to Ireland, with nearly 75% coming from small businesses.

READ MORE: Fear swirls around Brexit hitting the lifeblood of Northern Ireland’s economy

Northern Ireland firms also heavily depend on ports in Ireland for their trade with businesses in the rest of the UK.

Meanwhile, a leading Irish think tank warned in December that a no-deal Brexit would almost halve Irish economic growth in 2019.

For its part, the Irish government has said that such a scenario would have “profound political, economic and legal implications” for the country.

READ MORE: Irish government publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plan

Both business groups also pointed to the need to protect the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which has been key to the peace and stability seen on the island of Ireland in the past 20 years.

In the 30 years before it was signed, clashes between unionists and republicans — known simply as the Troubles — took the lives of more than 3,600 people.

“Protecting the achievements of the Belfast-Good Friday Agreement and the resulting all-island economic benefits is vital,” said Fergal O’Brien from IBEC.

The withdrawal deal includes important provisions to minimise economic disruption and avoid a hard border. A no-deal outcome would profoundly exacerbate, rather than resolve the many difficult challenges that Brexit presents.”