LONDON — Northern Ireland wants Boris Johnson to listen up.
With Brexit all but certain to happen following the Conservatives’ convincing election win — killing any hopes in the Remain-voting corner of the U.K. that Brexit might be canceled — businesses and politicians are turning their attention to what it will mean in practice.
The Brexit deal struck between the European Union and U.K. in October is far from “oven-ready,” as Johnson repeatedly claimed on the campaign trail, and the decisions made in the months ahead could have huge economic and political consequences for the region.
Businesses say they have had minimal engagement with London about Johnson’s Brexit blueprint, and the U.K. government remains tightlipped about its progress in setting up the joint committee with the EU that is mandated by the Withdrawal Agreement. That body will have the crucial job of thrashing out what the day-to-day reality of Brexit will look like on the ground.
There are also fears that Johnson’s determination to diverge from EU rules will make it harder to minimize checks and disruption to trade between Northern Ireland and the U.K.
Politicians from across the divide are calling for a seat in future talks, warning of the economic and political consequences of Johnson misunderstanding or ignoring their concerns.
Ulster Farmers’ Union President Ivor Ferguson said his industry group had been working with Northern Ireland’s authorities on Brexit for some time, with a bit of input from Great Britain, but was now “looking for more engagement on all fronts.”
“Essentially, we want what the prime minister promised — that the U.K. leave the EU as one entity and that Northern Ireland continues to have free and frictionless trade with Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.