British Irish Chamber of Commerce gala dinner takes place under shadow of Brexit uncertainty

Leo Varadkar, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn and John Cronin
Pictured (L-R): Leo Varadkar, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn and John Cronin

Business and political leaders gathered under the shadow of Brexit uncertainty for the British Irish Chamber of Commerce annual gala dinner this evening as the Taoiseach provided an update on the Government’s approach to Brexit in the wake of recent developments.

Over 450 attendees from the UK and Ireland were present at the event to hear a keynote speech by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and a business address by Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Having endured a week of political instability in the UK, the event provided an opportunity for industry and political leaders to assess how Brexit talks can progress in the coming weeks with the aim of providing businesses with a degree of certainty.

Dame Carolyn said: “The unique challenges for the Northern Ireland economy in the event of no deal are stark and damaging. The risk of ‘no-deal’ compounded by no Executive in Stormont is already taking its toll on jobs and investment. The reality would be devastating.

“There is a bright future for our two islands if politicians urgently find a solution that protects peace and prosperity. Now is a moment for historic political leadership on all sides.”

The event was chaired by John Cronin, president of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, who also heads up the Brexit group at McCann FitzGerald.

Mr Cronin said: “With just 56 days until the current Brexit deadline, there is real concern for our members that a ‘no-deal’ Brexit will damage and imperil existing trade between Ireland and the United Kingdom – in some cases quite significantly, and will limit future business opportunities.

“Businesses in Ireland and the UK are entering unchartered waters. The persistence of uncertainty on the terms on which businesses on both sides of the Irish Sea will trade with each other is disruptive, costly and harmful to relationships. The ability of many businesses to limit the impact of ‘no-deal’ while protecting supply chains, commercial ties and livelihoods is actually quite small.

“The British Irish Chamber of Commerce has long warned that a ‘no-deal’ outcome will have negative consequences for all types of businesses and trades – some will likely fail. We have advocated continuously for an orderly withdrawal, with a sensible transition period, that protects the business and trade between our two islands.

“In the Chamber’s view, the political and business relationship enjoyed by our two countries since the beginning of this millennium and, certainly, in the last decade – and which has enabled business to grow and flourish as never before – must be supported and not permitted to wither.

“A hard Brexit introduces trade barriers where there have been none. Therefore, avoiding a ‘no-deal’ situation must become the number one priority for the EU27 and the UK; no amount of planning can offset the damage of the UK crashing out of the EU. Our future growth and prosperity depend on finding another way forward.”

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