March 10, 2019 / 12:13 AM / 12 days ago

Northern Ireland firms warn of economic, social risks from no-deal Brexit

FILE PHOTO: British and EU flags flutter outside the Houses of Parliament during a pro-Brexit and anti-Brexit demonstration, ahead of a vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal, in London, Britain, January 15, 2019. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh/File Photo

BELFAST (Reuters) - Northern Ireland businesses urged British lawmakers on Sunday to seek a compromise over the country’s departure from the European Union and avoid the economic and social risks the province faces in crashing out of the bloc without a deal.

Ahead of a vote on Tuesday on the divorce agreement struck with the bloc last year, more than 50 businesses warned members of parliament in an open letter of the dangers of failing to unite behind a way forward that avoids a hard border and protects peace and economic progress in Northern Ireland.

With Britain due to leave the EU on March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May has so far failed to secure the changes to the deal needed to gain parliamentary support, including from the pro-Brexit Northern Irish party propping up her minority government.

Northern Irish business groups have for months urged the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to drop their opposition, at the heart of which is a dispute over managing the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU-member Ireland.

Among the signatories of the letter were major local and multinational employers including Bombardier, Coca-Cola, Danske Bank, Norbrook Laboratories, Queen’s University Belfast, the Viridian Group and Royal Bank of Scotland’s Ulster Bank unit.

In the letter, they said Northern Ireland’s business community is deeply concerned that firms are hugely exposed to the economic fallout from leaving the EU with without a deal and were already hurting from a lack of investment ahead of Brexit.

“A no-deal Brexit will result in significant damage to our export markets, supply chains, consumer spending power and the region’s competitiveness,” the letter said.

“Such a scenario will both hinder indigenous and foreign direct investment, it would result in significant job losses and will stifle opportunities for the next generation across Northern Ireland.”

Reporting by Amanda Ferguson, editing by Padraic Halpin and Kirsten Donovan

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