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QPANI support for Withdrawal Agreement

Gordon Best

Construction material suppliers endorse business community’s view that Agreement offers best outcome

THE Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland (QPANI), which represents the majority of construction material suppliers in Northern Ireland, employing more than 5,000 people, has joined the majority of the Northern Ireland business community in welcoming the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU.

Gordon Best, regional director of QPANI, said: ‘The supply of construction materials is essential to so many sectors within our Northern Ireland economy, particularly house building, farming, transport and, of course, new infrastructure, for indigenous business and inward investors.

‘We have taken the time to read and study the Withdrawal Agreement legal text, the explainer documents, the political declaration and the protocol for NI and Ireland. While we have identified some concerns around the VAT regime, influence of the European Court of Justice and citizens’ rights, which we are seeking clarification on, we have come to the unanimous view that this agreement offers the best outcome available to NI businesses, our workers, families and the stability of our society.’

Mr Best continued: ‘Whilst never cheerleaders for EU directives and legislation, some negative and many positive, we have worked closely with our Westminster MPs and MEPs over the years to lobby against the worst excesses of bureaucracy, and in particular the negative impact of the Aggregates Levy in Northern Ireland, and we recognize and appreciate their support.

‘However, we think for ourselves, we are certainly not puppets for others, and we evaluate and risk assess any threats to our industry and economy. Unfortunately, on this occasion we have to take issue with the position of those who oppose the Withdrawal Agreement.

‘For us, we have to deal with and base our decisions on the economic realities that a No Deal will thrust upon us against the benefits of unfettered access to both UK and EU markets. To us it is quite clear that, while not perfect, the Withdrawal Agreement is a temporary arrangement to see us through the implementation period up to December 2020 when we should have a comprehensive and favourable trade agreement with the EU.

‘The most important result of the Withdrawal Agreement is that, if agreed by Parliament, it gives a degree of certainty going forward and removes the threat of a catastrophic No Deal outcome that would be so damaging to our local economy and, in particular, to major sectors that are customers of our construction material suppliers.

‘In the event of a No Deal, the immediate disruption to cross-border trade would impact on the construction sector here due to the fact that 80% of the cement we use in Northern Ireland comes from the Irish Republic and many of our road contractors work on local council contracts in the Republic.

‘Our construction material contracting and materials handling sectors are very dependent on EU nationals’ labour and a No Deal would create great uncertainty for them. Most importantly, we, like many others within the business community, and indeed a number of political representatives, recognize that economically Northern Ireland will have unfettered access to both EU and UK markets. This will deliver significant opportunities both for expansion of local businesses and create much-needed inward investment.’

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