Posted on Monday 3 September 2018 by John Mulgrew

Stormont split

As Northern Ireland headed towards what we thought was going to be the unenviable accolade of having gone the longest period of time without a government, even that bubble was burst by the Guinness World Records, writes Ulster Business editor John Mulgrew.

We discovered, that as a devolved administration, it wasn’t in the running to officially smash Belgium’s record.

But we’ll continue on, regardless of the political situation. And while businesses in a survey this summer suggested that the impasse is having a greater impact on their forward planning than the vote for Brexit, and the ensuing scratching of heads, we’ve seen positivity from our companies here.

Ulster Business, along with all of those who have supported it over the years, officially unveiled the Top 100 edition - a definitive list of the biggest companies in Northern Ireland, which has now been going for 30 years.

Chatting to the companies and business leaders who turned out, some with turnovers at the far end of the hundreds of millions, while it’s a thorn in the side, most of the discourse is around what they are doing, rather than what they aren’t.

However, one area which did raise its head is what’s coming down the line for our farming and agri-food sector. One conversation cited a number of major challenges facing the industry, in particular to food production and meat - some of which are irrespective of the impending exit from the EU.

As someone who’s spent most of his time in Brussels and the surrounding areas, when not here, there’s always, and continues to be utter bafflement and confusion among those in the capital of Europe, as to what the UK is, or was, thinking regarding leaving the world’s largest trading bloc.

On one of several visits to the European Commission over the years, shortly before a date for the referendum was announced, I was called upon during a discussion with executives and think tanks to try and explain the reasons, albeit arguably trite and confused. I was the only journalist from the UK or Ireland on this occasion.

I tried my best to explain, playing something of a devil’s advocate on this occasion, why some in the UK - at that stage fuelled by a sovereignty argument - wanted to leave the EU.

The response? Overwhelming bafflement. And it’s that tone which continues, amid ongoing discussions to secure some form of deal. On that note, I hope you enjoy this September edition of the magazine.

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