Northern Irish businesses must be compensated for the millions of pounds in extra costs they are expected to face to trade with firms in Great Britain after Brexit is completed, a group of MPs have said.
As part of Boris Johnson’s deal to avoid a border on the island of Ireland, businesses in Northern Ireland face checks and controls on all goods coming from the rest of the UK from January and are threatened with some checks going in the other direction.
Business leaders have warned some firms could collapse under the weight of the costs, which will not be incurred by their counterparts in Scotland, Wales or England.
A report by the Northern Ireland affairs select committee recommends that the government “reimburses business for any new costs incurred” and clarifies urgently what new administrative requirements traders face.
“We are clear that UK businesses trading across the Irish Sea must not face new upfront or ongoing costs, as these would not be compatible with the government’s commitment to unfettered access and to maintaining Northern Ireland’s integral place in the UK internal market,” it adds.
The government has said it will unveil what new controls will be mandatory in the coming weeks, but a recently leaked HM Revenue and Customs presentation to Northern Ireland businesses showed at least three layers of red tape would be imposed from January.
Aodhán Connolly, the head of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium who is among those campaigning for mitigation and derogations, criticised the government’s new Brexit campaign slogan “Let’s Get Going” as meaningless.
Going where is the question? Without mitigations we are going to a future of less choice & affordability for NI families when they shop, a future where some products and business models are unviable. It is not enough to have a slogan & believe Michael, you have to plan & deliver https://t.co/0UqLMpnhAd— Aodhán Michael Connolly (@MichaelAodhan) July 13, 2020
The select committee report also called for the work of the Brexit joint committee, chaired by Michael Gove and the European commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, to be made available to parliament for public scrutiny.
It is charged with implementing the withdrawal agreement but its meetings are held in secret and minutes are not published.
The Northern Ireland affairs committee says mechanisms “must be established” to enable businesses in the region to engage with it and another specialised committee that feeds into it in order for it to be a “constructive forum for genuine problem solving”.
It also questions some of the pronouncements made by the government, including the declaration that “exit summary declarations” that the EU requires on all goods leaving the bloc for a third country will be waived.
The committee calls on the government to explain how ministers will guarantee that if they cannot get agreement from the EU. It says businesses need clear operational detail to be published by October 2020.