Thu 15th Feb 2018
February 2018: All island cooperation has been thrown into sharp focus recently
Ellvena Graham, President, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry
All island cooperation has been thrown into sharp focus recently as a result of the Brexit referendum and the detail of the negotiations which have followed.
Relations within the island have taken on a new impetus – the European Union post Brexit has led to some political, economic and even security challenges.
It’s no wonder that the leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, said recently when talking about the relationship between Northern Ireland and the South that “in so many ways, success for one of us is success for the other”.
Ireland’s Business, Enterprise and Innovation Minister Heather Humphreys joined Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry at an event at the end of last week, where she outlined the current status of cross border trade and importantly what the Irish government has done to work with employers and businesses to prepare for the impact of Brexit.
The volume of cross border trade now stands at £2bn per annum. Flowing out of the North/South approach to business development, we now have a joint strategy on attracting tourists to the island, specific sectors work together to maximise research and development and businesses and individuals are mentored on how best to maximise their sales potential both at home and abroad.
The work of InterTradeIreland alongside the better than ever relationships between representative business organisations including NI Chamber means that the politics has long disappeared from adopting an all island approach to economic development and support.
Yes of course our firms compete with each other and the search for Foreign Direct Investment involves each jurisdiction fighting its own corner, but the common sense approach to working together where appropriate is well established.
Brexit poses a threat to that stability and the joint approach which North/South cooperation underpins. Until it becomes clear what the precise new trading relationships will be between the UK and the EU block, it leaves Northern Ireland businesses in particular in business limbo.
As that is worked out over the next 12 months and most likely a longer period than that, we can only hope that the spirit of cooperation, now well established, endures and softens the Brexit blow.