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Irish Government urged to protect North West as business groups meet Minister Simon Coveney

The Irish Government has been urged to do everything it can to support the North West and border communities as the Brexit transition period comes to an end.

In a joint meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney TD, the Londonderry and Letterkenny Chambers of Commerce relayed the serious concerns of local businesses as negotiations between the UK and the EU have stalled in recent weeks.

The UK Government’s recently published Internal Market Bill attempts to sidestep the NI Protocol, agreed within the Withdrawal Agreement last October, in the event that the UK and EU fail to reach a trade agreement before 31 December 2020.

Paul Clancy, Chief Executive, Derry Chamber said:

“We welcomed today’s meeting with Minister Coveney and urged the Irish government to continue defending the interests of businesses and communities across the island. The entire North West region – on both sides of the border – is at particular risk from the worst excesses of an unmanaged and reckless Brexit, and targeted support will be necessary to weather the storm which a no-deal exit will bring.

“The message from businesses in the North West has remained consistent since 2016 – any barriers to trade north-south, as well as east-west, are unfathomable for our regional economy. We welcomed Minister Coveney’s reiteration today that the Irish Government is committed to ensuring unfettered trade across our islands and working collaboratively with the UK Government. The Minister shared our concerns about the UK Government’s recently published Internal Market Bill and its potential to disrupt the negotiations between the EU and the UK. Certainty and clarity for business has been in short supply over the past four years but, for all its faults, the NI Protocol provides a degree of certainty for businesses and a fallback in the event that a trade agreement is not reached.

“Our collaboration with the Letterkenny Chamber today is indicative of the importance of this issue for the entire region. Covid-19 has battered our economy on both sides of the border, and a damaging Brexit could finish off scores of already struggling businesses. As the Minister said today, while Covid-19 is a temporary disruptor for our economy, a damaging Brexit will be a permanent one. The future prosperity of our region is therefore reliant on a successful outcome to these negotiations and a productive relationship between the EU and the UK.

“We are again calling for urgent clarity over what the 1 January 2021 will bring for our businesses and we are urging all parties to work tirelessly to ensure there are no barriers to trade, business, or movement as the transition period ends. With less than 100 days until the new year, all sides must now focus minds on getting the best possible outcome for our businesses and communities.”