25 September 2023

NORTHERN IRELAND: Brexit to cost PS jobs

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The head of Northern Ireland’s Public Service, David Sterling has warned against complacency as an official report predicts that 40,000 jobs are at risk in the Province in the event of a no-deal exit for the UK from the European Union (Brexit).

Mr Sterling was accused of engaging in “Project Fear” when he gave similar warnings in the past, but said that while he had “developed a thick skin” in the face of such criticism, those fears still held.

“Our assessment is that no deal would have a profound and long-lasting impact on Northern Ireland and society, a point I made back in March and it remains valid today,” Mr Sterling told the Institute for Government.

He said the uncertainty over Brexit was now affecting investment, with the latest local Purchasing Managers’ Index data showing the “strongest reduction in output since September 2012”.

Mr Sterling also said there would be an increase in smuggling across the border and community relations in those areas could deteriorate.

“No deal could change the attitude in communities, which over time could have an impact on the culture of those areas”, he said.

In a wide-ranging talk, Mr Sterling also said the political impasse in Northern Ireland was not something that could simply be ignored.

“While tensions around parades had been in decline and there is less street disorder, there are other societal tensions that are probably the result of the political impasse,” he said.

Northern Ireland has been without a functioning elected Government for two-and-a-half years, during which time the Province’s Public Service has been the de facto Government with Mr Sterling at its head.

“We wouldn’t want to overstate it but at the same time I wouldn’t be complacent … it would wrong to be complacent and think this will be the same for evermore,” Mr Sterling said.

Asked what police would be deployed to the border on 1 November in a no-deal scenario, he said: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland assessment has been and remains that new infrastructure on the border would be at risk of attack by republicans.”

He was speaking after the Northern Ireland Department for the Economy issued a report warning a no-deal Brexit would lead to a sharp increase in unemployment with at least 40,000 jobs at risk.

Belfast, 11 July 2019

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