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Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 3°C
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# brexistential crisis
Northern Irish businesses write to MPs warning of 'significant job losses' if there's a no-deal Brexit
The hardline Brexiteers, meanwhile, have said it would damage democracy if Brexit is delayed.

AHEAD OF THE series of vital votes on Brexit in the coming week in Westminster, Northern Irish businesses have written to MPs and warned how local firms are “hugely exposed” to the threat of a no-deal Brexit.

Urging politicians to take a no-deal off the table, the group of 50 businesses asked MPs to “consider the damaging impact on Northern Ireland’s economy and political stability in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.

Separately, the UK’s foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has told the BBC that if the House of Commons – as expected – refuses to pass Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, then it opens up the possibility of a second referendum.

However, the hardline Brexiteers have signalled that they won’t back May’s proposals which include the Irish backstop, and said it will be defeated in the House on Tuesday.

Crunch time

There’s less than three weeks to go until the UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March, so the stakes couldn’t be higher with the potential for three crucial votes this week.

On Tuesday, MPs will get the opportunity to vote again on the prime minister’s withdrawal agreement. It was heavily defeated in January, and not a great deal has changed with the deal with the EU since that point.

On Wednesday, if May’s deal is voted against, MPs will then vote on whether to leave the EU without a deal. If this is also defeated, a vote will be put to the house on Thursday on whether to delay Brexit.

With the possibility of a no-deal Brexit not yet off the table, Northern Irish businesses have urged MPs not to support this option. 

In its open letter – signed by more than 50 businesses – it says: “Although Brexit has not yet happened, the negative economic impact is already starting to bite in terms of the private sector’s ability to invest. 

Northern Ireland industry also notes with much regret, uncertainty around future funding for local infrastructure given the immediate loss of approximately £450 million from the European Regional Development Fund which was once earmarked for significant infrastructure projects. 

We therefore urge MPs across the UK to consider the damaging impact on Northern Ireland’s economy and political stability in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Responding to the letter, DUP MP Sammy Wilson said it is clear there is a “coordinated attempt to railroad MPs into accepting the toxic, union destroying, NI economy damaging deal, which the prime minister had previously agreed with the EU”. 

Hard stance

Speaking on BBC’s Andrew Marr show this morning, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that if Brexit didn’t happen, it would be “devastating” for the Conservative party. 

He also said it was essential the UK seizes its opportunity to leave with Theresa May’s deal on 29 March because “there is wind in the sails of people trying to stop Brexit”.

“If you want to stop Brexit, you only need to do three things,” he said. “Kill this deal, get an extension and then have a second referendum. Within three weeks those people could have two of those three things… Quite possibly the third one could be on the way.”

Two leading Brexiteers, meanwhile, have said that delaying Brexit would cause “incalculable” harm to the public’s trust in politics and the democratic process.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds and Tory MP Steve Baker, writing in today’s Sunday Telegraph, said that delaying Brexit would mean that “democracy would be effectively dead”. 

Both said that May’s deal would be soundly defeated on Tuesday, and delaying Brexit now would be costly for businesses who’ve prepared for a 29 March exit date.

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