Retail Excellence and Retail Northern Ireland will today (April 6) jointly present to the Oireachtas Committee on the Good Friday Agreement and the impact of Brexit on the industry.
Lorraine Higgins, head of Public Affairs and Communications at Retail Excellence, said “This is a great opportunity to articulate the significant challenges facing the retail industry on the island of Ireland now that Article 50 has been triggered and I would like to thank Fianna Fáil TD and Vice-Chair of the Committee Declan Breathnach for inviting us to discuss these issues.
“Retail is always used as a barometer of how the economy is performing and it is clear our members are feeling the pinch. Early indicators are proving negative for retailers who have witnessed a dip in consumer sentiment and a loss in sales as a consequence of online shopping driven by sterling devaluation. For many local businesses this is a difficult and uncertain time,” Higgins said.
Higgins' address will make clear the significance of the UK economy to both the EU and Ireland, and specific ways Brexit will impact the Irish economy.
“Disentangling Ireland from the UK is the most brutal break up and we need to ensure that we have the best possible plan to safeguard Irish retailers and the 282,000 jobs and 100,000 businesses dependent on the relationship,” Higgins said.
“We are keen not to just rehash all the long time articulated concerns of our industry so along with CEO of Retail Northern Ireland we have proposed viable solutions which can be achieved by working together in a collaborative fashion. These actions are critical at this juncture as the impact of Brexit is not a well-defined scenario for Ireland who is the collateral damage in this referendum outcome.
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts spoke also on the issue: “Our joint Retail Excellence Ireland and Retail NI North South research indicates that there is a major prize for the retail industry on the island of Ireland if we can ensure that the broad choice of retail options is correctly profiled to incoming international visitors. Both our organisations are working in partnership to ensure that policies are put in place to support what is the Island’s largest industry by employment.
“Retail NI wants to see new ambition for developing our transport infrastructure on the island. Governments in Belfast, Dublin and London should begin the process of establishing a new one hour fast train service between Dublin and Belfast. This may take up to ten years to complete, but it would not only make it easier for tourists and shoppers to travel between the two cities, but potentially be a game changer for the all-Ireland economy,” Roberts continued.
“Triggering Article 50 is the start of a huge process of economic, social and political change for Northern Ireland and it remains to be seen if this change will be positive for our local economy. Certainly leaving the Single Market and Customs Union is neither positive for our retail sector or local economy as a whole.
“Northern Ireland’s retail sector needs a lot more certainty than just a vague aspiration about ‘no return to the borders of past.’ The bottom line is that Brexit should not result in any barriers in trade and on free movement across the border. It clearly is a major problem not having an Executive in place to argue our case in these vital Brexit negotiations. We urge all the political parties to redouble their efforts to secure agreement for a new administration,” Roberts concluded.
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