The latest proposals put to the EU by Prime Minister Boris Johnson have left companies facing a nail-biting period ahead and the unwanted prospect of a messy and disorderly exit on 31 October.

That is the view of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) which said that neither the UK Government nor many businesses are fully ready for a no-deal exit.

This worried reaction was echoed by Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry who warned: “Leaving the EU with no deal at the end of the month is a frightening prospect for many small firms, whose successful contribution to the economy is based upon strategy and forward-planning, not dropping off the end of a cliff and hoping for the best.”

Angela McGowan, CBI Northern Ireland Director, said that Mr Johnson’s proposals had to represent a basis for further discussions, not the final destination.

Elsewhere in Northern Ireland, Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing Northern Ireland said that the new plans replaced the possibility of one border with the possibility of two and were entirely unacceptable to small businesses.

Mr Johnson has suggested that Northern Ireland should stay in the European single market for goods but leave the customs union. To get around the necessity for customs checks in such a scenario, he said that these could take place electronically with physical checks on only a very small proportion of movements.

These inspections could be carried out at warehouses or “designated locations, which could be located anywhere in Ireland or Northern Ireland”, he explained.

EU negotiators have promised to give the proposals their full attention despite having previously rejected a customs solution that relies on technology.

Much will depend on the reaction of the Irish Taoiseach and Leo Varadkar has already expressed concerns that the plans include a consent mechanism in Northern Ireland that relies on the Stormont Assembly having a veto on the deal.

Because of disagreements between the main parties, the Assembly has failed to meet for more than three years.

Last reviewed 8 October 2019