Posted on Monday 3 December 2018 by John Mulgrew

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Northern Ireland’s business community has overwhelming thrown its weight behind a withdrawal agreement on Brexit – with almost 94% of one major lobby group’s members in favour, it can be revealed.

The CBI, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and IoD are among the groups which have backed the deal on the table. Meanwhile, farming unions in Northern Ireland and throughout the UK have also issued their support for the deal.

It would essentially provide a backstop, and create a deeper customs union between Northern Ireland the EU, along with a closer alignment in the single market.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI says that the agreement is “the only show in town.”

He said a poll of its members showed 93.5% of those who replied were in support.

“This is the only show in town. The rules are clear – in order for the UK to move to the most productive discussion on what the future relationship will be, we need a withdrawal agreement. The options are the agreement, or no deal,” he told Ulster Business.

“Business in Northern Ireland and agri-business have made it clear that no deal is not an option.”

Other business groups backing the proposed agreement include the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, Retail NI, Hospitality Ulster and the Freight Transport Association.

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, Prime Minister Theresa May said Northern Ireland will thrive under the proposed Brexit deal, and its position as part of the UK “is guaranteed”.

She said her agreement with Brussels “puts Northern Ireland in a fantastic position for the future”, and moved to reassure unionists that “Northern Ireland’s constitutional status as part of the United Kingdom is guaranteed.

“Under this deal the future is certainly bright for Northern Ireland.”

On the backstop, Ms May said three things made it “an acceptable insurance policy”.

She said the transition period could be extended instead of entering the backstop, regulations would be the same across all of the UK, and Northern Ireland would not be treated differently.

Meanwhile, in a joint statement, the Ulster Farmers’ Union, NFU Scotland, NFU England and NFU Cymru, said:

“The draft Brexit withdrawal agreement, while not perfect, will ensure that there are no hard barriers on the day we leave the European Union, and will allow trade in agricultural goods and UK food and drink to continue throughout the transition period largely as before. This opportunity needs to be taken.”

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