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Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal will cost Northern Irish business millions

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  • Business leaders express growing concern over the new Brexit deal.
  • Boris Johnson’s government has this week revealed details of new checks on goods moving both ways between Northern Ireland and Great Britain under the new agreement.
  • The Federation of Small Businesses told Business Insider that while they initially welcomed the Brexit deal “what we have heard since is causing a lot of concern.”
  • The Freight Transport Association warned that British businesses don’t have the capacity to carry out new checks. 
  • Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay on Monday admitted that there would be checks on goods moving west to east, having previously said the route would be “frictionless.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

LONDON — Northern Irish business leaders are alarmed about how Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal will hurt industry in the province, after the United KIngdom government admitted there would be new barriers to trade across the Irish Sea.

Johnson’s government on Monday revealed that goods moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland after Brexit would be subject to new import checks and regulation — creating administrative costs of up to £56 per customs declaration. 

Roger Pollen, Head of External Affairs at Federation of Small Businesses Northern Ireland, told Business Insider that while they had initially welcomed the deal, “what we have heard since is causing a lot of concern.”

A UK government impact assessment published on Monday revealed that businesses trading from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would need to sign import declaration and an Entry Summary Declarations after Brexit.

Read more: Boris Johnson’s own official government figures shows his Brexit deal will make British people much poorer

The Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said that goods moving the other way from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, would also be forced to undergo checks known as exit summary declarations.

Barclay confirmed to a House of Lords committee that businesses in Northern Ireland would see checks carried out on goods they sell to Great Britain, after mistakenly claiming that west to east trade would be “frictionless.”

Johnson on Tuesday denied that the new regulations amounted to “checks” on the Irish Sea, describing them instead as “light touch measures.”

However, the FSB said that the government’s admission had come as a “surprise” to the business community, and accused them of not being honest about how Johnson’s deal with the EU would impact British businesses.

“We’ve been getting mixed signals from government, not just in that committee but in other places too,” Pollen said.

“We have been assured that friction will be be minimal impact and light touch. We were under the impression that west to east trade would be unfettered.

“What we are now starting to see and hear is causing great concern.”

He added: “It looks like it would add a lot of cost, bureaucracy, and delay, and that would be immensely unwelcome.”

Ireland port Brexit

A general view of Dublin Marine Terminals ready for upcoming Brexit date. On Friday, May 31, 2019, in Dublin, Ireland.
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images


British business is not ready for new checks, industry leaders warn

Paul Bastidon, Head of Global and European Policy at the Freight Transport Association, told Business Insider that the cost of new checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain wasn’t the only problem for UK business.

She warned that many companies, particularly small businesses, don’t have the capacity to carry out the new checks.

“These new obligations would come at a substantial cost to industry (£7.5 billion for completing customs declarations alone for the whole of the UK according to HMRC), but the key question is one of feasibility, in light of the shortage of customs brokers highlighted by the National Audit Office in a recent report,” she told Business Insider.

The government’s impact assessment says small businesses could hire third-party customs brokers to complete customs declarations for them. However, the there is currently a shortage of customs brokers in the UK, according to a National Audit Office report published this month.

“The Government will need to address these structural issues of customs brokers and veterinarian shortages identified in the NAO report in consultation with industry,” Bastidon said.

“Without it, many companies, not least small and medium sized businesses, would be unable to comply with new obligations.”

Read more: Surge in campaign donations from US poultry lobby as Trump pushes for Brexit trade deal with UK

Naomi Smith, CEO of pro-EU group Best For Britain said: “The government is trying to be all things to all men.

“They want to pretend there’s no border along the Irish Sea, because that would admit that their Brexit deal would split the United Kingdom.”

“But businesses are now seeing through the deception. They know this deal will add cumbersome paperwork, stifle trade and ultimately see jobs leaving the country. 

She added: “That threatens our prosperity in the short and long term, and shows why so many people are sceptical of this damaging deal.

“With so many businesses, politicians and communities worried about the implications of this deal, it seems only right that the public are given the final say on Brexit.”

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, that props up Johnson’s Conservative government, is set to vote against Johnson’s deal on the grounds that it would create trade barriers between the province and Great Britain.

The prime minister’s plan to take the UK out of the EU with his deal on October 31 could be derailed on Tuesday evening if members of Parliament vote against the government’s controversial programme motion.

If passed, the motion would force Parliament to hold 12-hour sessions and sit at the weekend in order to pass all necessary Brexit legislation before the Halloween Brexit deadline next week.

However, opposition MPs and some Conservatives are set to oppose the motion, on the grounds that they should have more time to scrutinise details of Johnson’s deal, revealed in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB.)

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