TWO of Fermanagh’s largest employers have revealed that “business is good” since a Brexit deal was struck between British and EU negotiators almost one month ago.
“The free trade deal between the North and South was pretty much guaranteed by the Ireland Protocol and this was quite a comfort to us as some 70% of our customer base is now in the South,” explained Michael Liddle, general manager of Western Brand Poultry.
“Had there been either a customs or SPS regime on the Irish border, movement of raw materials in and finished products out would have been delayed and may not have been possible at all outside of the Monday to Friday 9-5 working week.
“We had a few hiccups on the first weekend, as hauliers were reluctant to travel to Great Britain in case there were difficulties with loads back.
“As some of our raw materials come as a part of groupage loads, we have been advised to expect delays, but so far this hasn’t caused any problems.
“We do have one piece of equipment delayed in customs which we had hoped to be using in production by now, but all told we’ve had a busy start to 2021, and we expect that to continue.”
CEO of Mannok, Liam McCaffrey, also highlighted the importance of the Ireland Protocol, stating that there would have been major “issues” had it not been honoured.
Speaking on the cost of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, Mr McCaffrey explained, “In terms of loss, a ‘No Deal’ would have run into millions.
“The prospect of tariffs and the difficulty a no deal would have caused to us is certainly something we wished to avoid.”
Mr McCaffrey also revealed that this was the first time in almost four and a half years that border businesses could plan for the future.
“You can cope with most things, but what kills a business is uncertainty. At least now we know what’s ahead of us. We have our plans to cover it.
“We think we’re in good shape, but we can discount some short term disruptions because of the new customs and checks that invariably will be at ports.”
He added, “Most of our product is heavy so it doesn’t travel well for very long distances. There is certainly a market still for it in the GB and Northern Ireland markets. That has been our focus and will continue to be our focus.”
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