IoD: ‘Government’s no deal planning ‘cack-handed’ and comes too late for many firms’

Responding to the Government’s publication of no-deal contingency measures, covering tariffs and measures for Northern Ireland, Allie Renison, Head of Europe and Trade at the Institute of Directors, said:

“While the information provided is the bare minimum needed to mitigate the full impact of no-deal for goods traders in particular, it has come far too late to allow businesses to be ready in just a few short weeks.

“Cutting tariffs unilaterally is a necessary and welcome part of a country’s trade policy, but it is crucial to do so in a measured, open and consultative way to get buy-in from both businesses and the public. Unfortunately there has been virtually none of that from Government in the run-up to this point.

“Making these tariff decisions temporary will lead to widespread confusion about what may change and when, as firms will want to know well in advance about how duties may rise. Such unpredictability may also have consequences for our trading relations with countries outside the EU as well.”

On contingency measures for Northern Ireland, Allie Renison commented:

“While we commend the Government for sticking to its pledge of not erecting a hard border under no deal, the measures it is putting in place to deliver that have had no real road-testing with businesses who will have to use them. Some membership organisations have had sight of these plans without being allowed to discuss them with affected members. This is a farcical approach to getting firms ready for no-deal.

“Moreover, the tariff wall and other new non-tariff requirements for Northern Irish firms trading south into the Republic of Ireland will be just as prohibitive a barrier – regardless of where any physical controls might be.  They will be left at a competitive disadvantage relative to the GB market, with fewer protections against unfair competition. It means they will go from having priority access to the EU and home markets to struggling to hold their own overnight. Businesses on the island will also have to contend with a significant spike in the scope for smuggling, as highlighted by the Northern Ireland police services, while attempting to safeguard their own compliance with the new rules. We do however hope today’s publication will result in the Irish Government and EU making clear their own contingency measures in relation to the land border.

“All in all, the belated, cack-handed way in which the Government has handled its no-deal planning is one of the main reasons why many businesses will not be prepared for this outcome by March 29th. Politicians should be under no illusion – this package of mitigating measures do not help make the case for no-deal. They are rather a reminder of the spike in invidious choices we would face as a country amidst a backdrop of chaos.”