As Britain will exit the European Union (EU) at 11pm on the 1st January, this will have various significant implications, both positive and negative for local businesses across Northern Ireland.
Lurgan town is no exception with workshops to butchers having to negotiate these uncertain times with sticking points for both the UK and EU preventing clarity on the future.
Craigavon TV Service Centre have been repairing televisions for over 40 years and operate across the whole of Ireland.
Roger Patterson who runs the business major anxieties have been eased by the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The Northern Ireland Protocol which was negotiated by PM Boris Johnson means NI will continue to implement EU custom rules and abide by its rules on product standards (known as the single market on goods).
It will remove the need for a hard border, mini border will exist in the Irish sea between England and Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland.
“Because of the Northern Ireland Protocol which becomes law on the 1st January regardless of any agreement or no agreement between the UK and the EU, we’ve quite a lot of certainty” he said.
In terms of sourcing materials for his business this is covered under the protocol. “Most of our parts, probably 99% of our parts come from the EU anyway, so after the 1st January parts coming from the EU into Northern Ireland will be treated as EU to EU” he explained.
However, there are still elements which remain uncertain.
“There may be slightly different ways in terms of maybe the way VAT is handled for example if we’re getting parts from EU and Northern Ireland but maybe they are moving to the Republic of Ireland they’re may be slight tax implications but until there is an trade agreement between the EU an UK nobody will know what way that will pan out” he continued.
Though there are benefits for his business because of the small border in the Irish sea.
“Say for example there is a television that broke down in Dublin that television at the moment would not be fixed in Dublin, they would courier that over to their own super workshop that does about a million repairs a year, have it repaired there and ship it back across the Irish sea back to the customer in Ireland… it will cause some extra costs simply because there’s extra admin involved in moving the stuff so there’s a very good chance that those repairs that never stayed in Ireland and went to England will now stay in Ireland and the chances are we will get them all” he notes.
“The border between England and Ireland is actually producing opportunities for us” he said.
There is a similar assurance from Mark Savage, Director of Floored Designs Studio LTD who sell and fit flooring.
“I’m not really worried about it because I believe that these things will all work themselves out and I think both sides, the UK and Europe are just playing hardball at the moment to try to see how much they can actually get out of each other” he said.
“We would order a lot of carpets and flooring from Belgium and places like that but the way around this a lot is that a lot of these big manufacturers who are based in Belgium and so on have actually got depots and manufacturing depots in the UK and Ireland so a lot of them will just produce more in the UK and Ireland to get around any tariffs that there’s going to be any issues with” he continued.
“I think in the end they’ll have to come up with some sort of agreement that works and that keeps businesses over here running smoothly” he notes.
However, business owners like Simon Dowey of John R Dowey and Son Butchers are less positive.
“Businesses don’t like uncertainty. Businesses like to plan” he said.
“Because there might be problems with imported food, it will then push up the price of the local food. It is really hard to say, it could go either way. The price of local food could stay the same and therefore people will buy more local because imported food will become more expensive, it could also happen that way” he continued.
Paul Mc Gaughey of Print Business Supplies Lurgan has already experienced negative impacts on his business on account of the exchange rate suffering following Britain’s announcement that it was leaving the European Union in June 2016. The pound fell hard against the Euro at a rate of up to 10.4% according to The London Economic.
“Well basically it started off obviously with the exchange rate changing quite a while ago, a couple of years ago, the exchange rate was fairly strong and obviously its effectively crashed” he said.
This had a knock-on effect to how Mc Gaughey ran his business.
“I remember at the time the prices just started going up because all the stationary supplies come from mainland Europe first and foremost, so the cost price was rising that obviously leads for a local business like myself” he stated.
“Having to put up the prices and it’s hard to get customers, it’s hard to keep them happy because you’re trying to compete with the bigger sort of Amazons and Office Deopt, all these big commercial suppliers so the immediate effect it could have was that we’ve had to increase all our prices” he explained.
“The initial effect it had was customers questioning the prices, but they did find out by going online and looking that it was going up across the board, it wasn’t just us” he noted.
“It’s just not ideal like whenever people have been getting steady prices and then there’s a jump” he said.
It remains to be seen in what way Brexit effect trade across Northern Ireland. Although regardless it will see significant change in how these businesses operate.