Businesses' Relief at Irish Sea Trade Deal

Business groups across the UK have welcomed the agreement reached between London and Brussels that will effectively abolish the Brexit 'border' in the Irish Sea that has been restricting the free flow of goods between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Irish Sea Trade Deal

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Under the 'Windsor Framework' deal announced on Monday afternoon by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, there will be a 'green lane' for goods crossing the water between Britain and Northern Ireland.Since Brexit, all such movements have been subject to exhaustive paperwork and checks to ensure trade complied with EU regulations because of the borderless divide between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, which remains part of the EU. Now there will be a 'red lane', subject to existing EU rules and documentation, for goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland before going on to the Republic.Unionists in Ulster objected to the current Brexit rules, saying they were creating a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) were so concerned by the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol that they pulled out of the power-sharing government more than a year ago, rendering it unable to operate.The DUP has still not given its blessing to the new deal but business leaders are excited by the opportunities it offers, not only because it will free up trade within the UK but because it has put relations between London and Brussels on a much more agreeable footing.This has brightened the prospects of the two sides reaching an agreement on mutual access for financial services. And Ms von der Leyen has signalled that UK scientists will now be able to rejoin the Horizon project, the EU’s flagship research programme.On the trade deal, the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group, which represents the region's 14 largest business organisations, praised the “considerable efforts” of both sides and urged politicians to restore the power-sharing government."Reaching an agreement is an important step in securing the stability and certainty businesses have been seeking," said the group. "It is our shared aspiration that the agreement will deliver a unique platform that unlocks economic growth and investment, but we will need time and space to work through the technical detail with our members."Meanwhile, Tony Danker, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), congratulated London and Brussels for "resolving the deadlock over the Northern Ireland Protocol and delivering an historic deal".He added: “With social, political and economic life in Northern Ireland feeling like it has been on hold for the past couple of years, this breakthrough will allow businesses and politicians to turn their attention to economic growth and delivering greater prosperity for everyone across NI.“Business stands ready to work with all stakeholders moving forward. Work to understand and successfully implement new arrangements should start immediately. Working together we can make this deal work and help NI to thrive.”Jonathan Geldart, director-general of the Institute of Directors, was equally enthusiastic over the deal. “We hope that this new agreement will stimulate economic growth and investment. However, our members will want to take a close look at the detail in the weeks ahead. Think Women 23 Intext NEW“Going forward, we look forward to renewed cooperation between the UK and the EU in the interests of consumers and businesses alike.”William Bain, head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said the organisation had long been calling for a solution to the trading difficulties caused by the Northern Ireland Protocol. “Businesses in both Northern Ireland and Great Britain have been calling for a considerable reduction in checks and documentary requirements to move everyday goods across the Irish Sea," he said. "We will be closely considering the legal texts and their full implications, but this appears to be a positive step toward achieving this goal.“The Green Lane proposal should offer a green light to future prosperity in Northern Ireland. But more broadly businesses in the UK will welcome the potential for stabilising relations with the EU. “There is now the potential to move to a new phase of co-operation on trade, regulation, climate, migration and supply chain issues.“We hope the UK government, EU member state governments, and the EU institutions will seize this opportunity to improve our relationships, cut costs and remove red tape for exporting businesses." James Bentley, director of Financial Markets Online, pointed out that the immediate reaction to the announcement of a deal over "one of the most toxic legacies of Brexit", had been a rise in the value of the pound.“As Westminster and Northern Irish politicians pore over the fine print of the Windsor Framework to work out who will be the winners and losers, the currency markets have already made their snap judgment: UK trade will be a winner," he said.But Mr Bentley added: “Agreeing to make cross-border trade easier is one thing. Actually increasing cross-border trade is another, and once the relief at the breaking of the deadlock fades, sterling is likely to settle back into its sluggish pattern.“Nevertheless, this is a moment to savour for global markets predicated on free trade between nations. Post-Brexit trade friction between the UK and its biggest trading partner has been a constant gripe, both for Remainers who want to turn back the clock and for Leavers frustrated at what they see as Brexit’s missed opportunities.”

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