Peter Foster @pmdfoster Europe Editor of the Daily Telegraph. Formerly based in Washington DC, Beijing and New Delhi. Opinions my own. Feb. 14, 2019 2 min read

Northern Irish businesses are being left in the lurch by #Brexit - what does that mean? /1

@ninusinessinfo, @UlsterBusiness, @NIChamberofCommerce, @FBS_NI @RetailNI @CBI_NI @InvestNI @JPCampbellBiz @NIBusiness @RetailNI @julianoneill @boardroom_ni 

Just spent three days on the road talking to NI business - a haulier, an engineering firm, a concrete business, a ship fitters...

What does Westminster #Brexit impasse mean when denominated in real world currency? /2

It means that haulage company may decide to invest heavily in the Republic to continue to serve its customers - which means some of their 200 employees in the North are likely to lose their jobs. They will also pay more of their taxes in Dublin, not to the Exchequer in London./3

It means that an engineering firm I visited has delayed investment in a million pounds worth of new plant for their factory, and the purchase of new vans and forklifts because big infrastructure contracts in the UK are being put on hold./4

As a result, their concrete business is flat, so they are sitting on their cash as a precaution. That means someone else’s business didn’t make a sale; someone else’s wages are less likely to get paid, and the business over time becomes less competitive and efficient. /5

It means a potentially painful decision for a company that fits out cruise liners and is looking to expand - but is torn between making a new £30m investment in Northern Ireland, where they currently employ 600 people, or shifting to Poland. /6

If NIreland gets the nod, that will create 400 jobs. If not, they will go to the EU where the company already recruits a lot of skilled carpenters and plumbers who - at NI wage rates - may not meet the definition of ‘skilled’ when post-Brexit immigration controls come in/7

They also know that when the new bathrooms and bars are flat-packed into containers for dispatch to the dry docks where ships are refitted, any delays at ports or with customs and permits will open the door to hungry EU competitors. It might be safer to relocate. /8

So for business owners it means stress - like the wind turbine gearbox refurbishment company that ships crews and their tools all over the EU to fix broken windmills, and still has no clue on what basis it will do this after Brexit. /9

The company already has clients getting jumpy about a ‘no deal’, and whether it’s worth the risk signing contracts that might harder to honour if a ‘no deal’ occurs. /10

But companies and owners are ultimately sanguine because the know they can usually shift and adapt, but it’s their employees - the welders, chippies and truck drivers - for whom they really fear. Often from families they’ve employed for a long time, often in a small community/11

So there was a vote. The world changes. The people voted for Brexit and Brexit needs to be delivered - that is accepted by most people, even here where the vote was to remain and Nationalists dune over an English/DUP brexit being imposed. /12

But a chaotic, disorderly Brexit where six weeks before B-Day the Prime Minister still can’t show a clear pathway to a deal? And now she wants to dice with a ‘no deal’ all the way to the March European Council, a week before exit day? That’s what really angers people. /13 ENDS

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