Northern Ireland port chief warns no-deal Brexit would ‘decimate’ business

Foyle Port chief executive Brian McGrath was part of a trade delegation visiting Westminster.

A container ship. Foyle Port engages in worldwide trade in commodities including oil, animal feed and fertiliser
A container ship. Foyle Port engages in worldwide trade in commodities including oil, animal feed and fertiliser

The most westerly port in the UK and Northern Ireland could lose 40% of its business in the event of a no-deal Brexit, politicians have been warned.

Foyle Port chief executive Brian McGrath said crashing out of the EU would “decimate” operations at the global shipping centre near the Irish border in Londonderry.

The harbour engages in worldwide trade in commodities including oil, animal feed and fertiliser.

Mr McGrath said: “We can either be Britain’s most westerly remote port, or we can be a European gateway and we want to be both.

“We are an Irish, European and British port simultaneously and if we have a hard border and crash out, that is all done.”

Mr McGrath was part of the largest ever trade delegation of Northern Ireland businesses to travel to Westminster.

Northern Ireland’s political powersharing administration was suspended more than two-and-a-half years ago and the region is deeply divided over Brexit.

Mr McGrath said politicians needed to find a way to avoid paying post-Brexit tariffs which would make his business uncompetitive.

“If we have to pay multiple tariffs and customs and bureaucracy that makes us uncompetitive then we will be out of business,” he said.

“It will decimate the business.”

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster
Colin Neill, from Hospitality Ulster, also attended the business event (Hospitality Ulster/PA)

“We are bringing in commodities from all over the world, we are bringing in oil, animal feeds, fertilisers, timber and if we get a hard border we could lose 40% of our trade overnight, that is how stark it is,” he continued.

“That puts you out of business.

“We are doing really well and we can be a vehicle for further economic growth but we need a deal.

“A no-deal exit from Europe is not an answer for the economy in any shape or form.”

His words were echoed by many of those attending Wednesday’s business event at Westminster.

Colin Neill, from hoteliers and publicans representatives Hospitality Ulster, said his members saw any recession first due to falling disposable income.

“We need to come out with a deal with unfettered access to both the all-island market and the Great Britain market,” he said.

“I appreciate there are constitutional issues, there are political issues in there but we cannot leave Europe without a deal.”

Kevin Kingston, chief executive officer of the biggest bank in Northern Ireland, Danske, said his larger customers had taken action to prepare for Brexit but that smaller firms faced existential challenges.

“We are here with the business community bringing a very positive message that Northern Ireland is a great place to do business but how much better we could be if we had that certainty in terms of Brexit outcome and the benefit of having an administration back at Stormont,” he said.

He added that customers were calling for certainty and there were opportunities for a “unique” solution which may address the needs of Northern Ireland.

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