Speaking ahead of its Annual Dinner this evening, Brian Irwin, Chairman of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association (NIFDA) said:
“NIFDA welcomes the draft withdrawal agreement as a positive development in the ongoing Brexit negotiations, and we would be hopeful that this will enable more substantive talks around our future trading relationship with the EU.
“We must be clear on the fact that a no-deal outcome would be disastrous for Northern Ireland, particularly for the agri-food sector. We simply could not absorb increased customs, tariffs and regulatory costs on trade between Northern Ireland and the EU.
“Recent government analysis reported by the BBC estimated that in a no-deal scenario, the agri-food sector would take the brunt of the damage, with NI goods exports falling by up to £1.1bn annually compared to a backstop scenario.
“Whilst this agreement may not be perfect, and further clarification on certain aspects will be required, it is vastly preferable to a no-deal scenario and offers us an effective insurance policy in the interim period until a new trading relationship is agreed. A UK wide solution that avoids a hard border and allows Northern Irish firms frictionless access to markets in Britain, Republic of Ireland, and the European Union offers our members the best chance of surviving in a post-Brexit world.
“We will be discussing these issues in further detail at NIFDA’s Annual Dinner this evening. We will also be calling on our local politicians to show decisive leadership at this time and work together with the local business community to ensure that the interests of our economy and society take priority over party politics. When we consider the alternatives, this is the best option and should be supported as such.”