Tue 5th Dec 2017
December 2017: Businesses require clarity. It is a simple as that
Businesses require clarity. It is a simple as that. Clarity allows them to operate on a secure basis and in a stable environment which ultimately will result in economic and social prosperity.
At our annual Northern Ireland Chamber President’s Banquet two weeks ago I posed a question to our political leaders on behalf of the businesses we represent across Northern Ireland. With 850 guests in attendance from businesses large and small, and with our senior political leaders also in the packed room at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall, I posed a question with clarity – Who speaks for us?
At that stage it was exactly 304 days since we had a functioning Executive; 304 days without leadership; 304 days without a social strategy; 304 days without an economic strategy; and 304 days without a final Programme for Government and a budget set at Westminster.
Alongside this, I highlighted the ongoing problem for businesses of finding staff with the right skills which is compounded by our flawed university funding model and the fact that the Apprenticeship Levy is not working for Northern Ireland.
It’s now 324 days with no discussion or clarity on these crucial issues for Northern Ireland.
Time has moved on but we are no better off. Business confidence continues to wain and investment intentions stall.
Developments over the last few days on Brexit have become highly charged and still lack the clarity that businesses require.
The companies we work with want a trade relationship between the UK and the EU that is tariff free and which takes account of the all-island supply chain, particularly in the crucial Agri-Food sector.
NI Chamber has long been urging negotiators to reach a pragmatic agreement on withdrawal issues, so that we can move on swiftly to transition and trade talks.
Today’s statements enhance the prospects of finally securing a much-needed transition deal and moving on to the issues that are most important to business, investment and economic well-being on all sides.
It is imperative to keep up the momentum, as it’s high time to answer the huge practical questions on regulation, customs, standards, tariffs and taxes that lie at the heart of what businesses need to know in order to plan for the future.