“For those that are not in support of the draft agreement, it is now time to outline your alternative proposals” – that was the key message delivered by Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Ellvena Graham as she addressed over 850 guests at the annual NI Chamber President’s Banquet at ICC Belfast.
Brexit and the draft Withdrawal Agreement
Discussing Brexit and the draft Withdrawal Agreement, Ms Graham commented: “It is fair to say that the Prime Minister’s resilience has been matched only by that of businesses challenged by three years of nonstop political debate and continuous uncertainty.
“After a long period of negotiation we now have a draft Withdrawal Agreement which is undoubtedly a welcome step forward for the majority of businesses in Northern Ireland and it is definitely much better than a no-deal scenario.
“We want the outcome that’s best for businesses, for consumers, for the economy and for the future stability of Northern Ireland – and we’ll do everything we can to ensure that we get it.
“We therefore encourage our political representatives who support the draft agreement to do everything in their power to influence political representatives in Britain to join them.
“For those that are not in support of the draft agreement, it is now time to outline your alternative proposals. We are willing to listen.”
Absence of an Executive at Stormont
On the current absence of an Executive at Stormont, Ms Graham commented: “We have a vibrant and innovative business community that wants to invest and grow but it’s stymied because of the prolonged absence of a regional government and the endless Brexit bickering.
“Last week, a list was published of all the things that are being held up by the lack of an Executive – a pile-up of more than 160 decisions affecting all aspects of Northern Ireland life – all needing the signature of a Minister.
“Every action – or indeed non-action – has consequences. And the consequence of a lack of real political representation means that we have no consolidated voice to speak for us at a time when we have never needed it more.”
Joining Ms Graham at the Banquet was guest speaker Jed Mercurio, creator of BBC hit dramas Bodyguard and Line of Duty.
Bodyguard, Mercurio’s most recent credit, premiered in August 2018 as the highest rated new UK drama since 2006.
The President’s Banquet was supported by NI Chamber’s Communications Partner BT and supporting sponsors Grafton Recruitment, Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council, Tourism NI and Tughans.