Builders union rejects NI border as unworkable

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Builders slam hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, says FMB
 

A hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would be damaging to the NI construction sector, according to new research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). 

Key findings from the research include:

• Over half of construction SMEs in NI said a hard border between NI and the Republic would have a negative impact on purchasing products and materials from the Republic;

• Almost half of NI construction SMEs purchase building materials or products from the Republic and almost one third employ people who are based across the border;

• Just under 40% of construction SMEs in NI said a hard border between NI and the Republic would have a negative impact on their ability to employ people from across the border; 

• One in three NI builders have had their margins squeezed on projects since the depreciation of sterling following the EU referendum due to its impact on material prices;

• Almost a quarter of NI construction SMEs have said the depreciation of sterling has threatened the financial well-being of their business following the EU referendum. 

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Our research clearly shows that a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would dampen growth among construction SMEs. What we’re calling for today is a return to the pre-1973 arrangement that saw the free movement of people between the UK and Ireland. There are more than 200 roads that criss-cross between NI and the Republic and up to 35,000 people commute from one side to the other every day. Your typical NI construction firm transports materials, products and labour from the Republic into Northern Ireland on a regular basis and anything that interferes with their ability to do that quickly and easily must be dealt with sensitively. Indeed, almost one third of NI construction firms employ people who are based across the border and over half think a hard border would have a negative impact on purchasing products and materials from the Republic.”

Berry concluded: “Brexit is already making its presence felt in Northern Ireland with builders feeling the pinch since material prices have risen following the depreciation of sterling after the EU referendum. Indeed, more than a third of NI builders have reported that their margins have been squeezed since the EU vote last summer. Let’s remember that the construction industry is central to the health of the NI economy. The construction sector employs around 65,000 people and has an output of £2.4bn per annum in NI alone. Furthermore, it’s an enabling industry as without it, we won’t be able to deliver the new homes, roads, schools and hospitals that Northern Ireland so desperately needs.”

 Rory Reagan, Director of Regan Building Contractors, said: “A hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would make the day-to-day running of my business much more difficult. My firm employs individuals from the Republic and my fear is that they will find themselves in long queues at border check points every morning. I also worry about the impact a border will have on my firm’s ability to purchase materials from the Republic. My hope is that the EU, UK and the Republic of Ireland will manage to negotiate a post-Brexit border agreement that provides for the status quo.”

The movement grows – join us.

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Lee R Nixon: Jeremy Corbyn has done an incredible thing.

From the moment he was thrust unwillingly into the limelight as party leader, he began building a movement. Initially, he was dismissed by the right wing as a joke. After all, few people living had ever witnessed a genuinely compassionate, socialist leader of the Labour Party and they assumed it was an unsustainable aberration. It wouldn’t last. He has no experience, they thought. Toppling him will be easy, they thought. One puff of wind will blow this scruffy upstart away, they thought. But they were wrong.

It quickly became apparent that this gently spoken old man was not as vulnerable as he appeared. His roots were deep and unmovable. No mere draft of hot air from the right was going to topple him. So it was that the entire right wing establishment began to recognise him for the threat he was.

Not a threat to national security, or the economy, though they would spin it thus, but a threat to their gravy train; to their extortion of workers; to their laundering of tax money into their own pockets and, for some at least, to their erstwhile immunity to investigations of corruption and war crimes.

And so the storm began. It started with attempts to misrepresent his past actions, accusations of sympathy for terrorism, which were easily debunked by the winner of two major peace prizes.

The right wing in his own party attempted to portray him as unelectable, even though their attempt was an indication that they believed anything but. Many bought into that deceit, but the movement was growing and the movement had their say in the ensuing leadership election. Just like his Islington constituents, the Labour Party membership confirmed their faith in their democratically elected leader.

They tried to brand Corbyn’s supporters as a personality cult, perhaps misreading the enthusiasm of the left for at last finding representation, but more likely not even caring for facts. But the movement grew.

More and more, the demographic of his supporters belied the idea they were all hard-left trotskyists, as grannies and mothers, nurses and teachers and others turned up at rallies, waving placards and adding their voice to the rest.

Early on, the right-wing establishment-led media got on board with the constant smear campaigns. Were it not for social media, their stranglehold on news reporting might have stopped the movement in its tracks. But people could lift the propaganda curtain and peer behind.

People saw videos of tens of thousands marching in London, bringing the city to a standstill, supporting the NHS, challenging the Tories, chanting “Justice for Grenfell!” They saw it and were astounded when it was suppressed by the media – even by our publicly-owned broadcaster, the BBC. The movement grew.

Then came the accusations of antisemitism – a smear proven to have been dreamt up by a right wing cabal who cared far more about toppling Corbyn than about addressing antisemitism.

Indeed, the despicable weaponisation of this sensitive issue demonstrated a total lack of concern for the victims of genuine racism, given how their cheap political stunt would inevitably undermine genuine attempts to address it.

It was a crass move but the right wing believed it was a powerful one – so powerful that they thought they could blatantly discuss the mechanism of their smear, boasting that they would use the weaponisation of antisemitism to topple Corbyn, making no pretence at any other objective.

But once again, they were wrong. People started to see the smears for what they were. People are now seeing them for what they are. The more ridiculous the smears get, the more support Corbyn receives. The right-wing’s much vaunted coup de grace has missed its mark.

The movement grows.