Politicians and business representatives in Northern Ireland have been reacting to the announcement that the EU and UK have reached a post-Brexit trade deal.
It follows months of disagreements over fishing rights and future business rules.
First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster
“We have consistently urged both sides to achieve a deal.
“We will, of course, examine the details both of the trade deal itself as well as other issues such as security where agreement will be particularly important from the Northern Ireland viewpoint.
“Given the government’s Northern Ireland Protocol, a sensible trade deal between the United Kingdom and the European Union was always the most favourable outcome for Northern Ireland.
“Moving forward, we will continue to work to seize the opportunities and address the challenges which arise from the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.”
Deputy First Minister and Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill
“While we have distinctly different political positions on leaving the EU, we are all agreed that it’s in no-one’s interests to leave without a deal, therefore this announcement is good news which will be welcomed across the whole island.
“As an executive we will now need to consider the detail of the agreement because there will be many questions on what the agreement means for businesses and citizens and it is important they get that clarity.”
Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Micheál Martin
“I welcome the conclusion of negotiations between the EU and the UK today.
“I hope that this outcome will now be approved by both sides and that the necessary procedures to allow the agreement to enter force on 1 January will proceed smoothly.
“The government will now consider the detail of the text very carefully.
“From what we have heard today, I believe that it represents a good compromise and a balanced outcome.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood
“While the deal may seek to mitigate the damage that leaving the European Union will have on people, businesses and communities in Northern Ireland it will not undo the damage of Brexit.
“This entire Brexit fantasy is a future that people here do not want and did not vote for.
“A deal is better than no-deal, but the best deal will always remain being at the heart of the European Union.
“That is what our people voted for in 2016. We all deserve a future that is no longer limited to the least worst option.
“People here have chosen a future based on partnership and cooperation.
“The institutions of our peace process are founded on the hope and promise of a better society built by working with our neighbours, looking outwards and building towards a shared, inclusive future.”
Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken
“The announcement by the prime minister and European Commission president of a trade agreement may bring some certainty to businesses in Great Britain.
“However, for Northern Ireland the benefits bring little to celebrate as we remain under the unequal and massively bureaucratic Protocol, with the imposition of an Irish Sea border just days away.
“No amount of spin from Boris Johnson or those who facilitated and cleared the path for him, can hide that fact.
“With over 2,000 pages of text to closely examine it will take time to fully understand if there are any, even wider implications for Northern Ireland, but no matter what, this deal at the 11th hour should not be spun as a success – in many ways it is the least worst option and possibly the worst of both worlds for Northern Ireland.”
Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry
“There is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit.
“All versions of Brexit will leave Northern Ireland in [a] worse situation than before and will see the loss of a broad range of opportunities and benefits.
“These include the loss of freedom of movement and impact on the service economy.
“A UK-EU future relationship agreement is necessary to avoid a catastrophic no deal outcome.
“While Northern Ireland does have some protection and even some comparative advantages due to the protocol, it is only workable in the context of a wider deal.
“Alliance will be studying this deal over the coming days.
“Key considerations for us will include matters beyond just trade, such as data adequacy recognition, justice, policing and security, plus access to the full spectrum of EU Programmes. “
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis
“This deal is excellent news for Northern Ireland and the whole of the United Kingdom.
“It builds on the agreement we reached with the EU on the implementation of the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol.
“These decisions deliver on our commitments to Northern Ireland, ensuring that existing economic and social links with Great Britain and Ireland will be preserved, while protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement and the hard won gains of the peace process.
“Northern Ireland is uniquely placed to benefit and prosper from this deal, making it an even more attractive place to invest, trade and do business.”
Aodhán Connolly, NI Retail Consortium
“Both the retail industry and households across Northern Ireland welcome the announcement of a free-trade agreement between the UK and EU.
“We hope this will protect consumers across the UK from billions in import tariffs on every day goods.
“For Northern Ireland it also means a reduction in new customs frictions between GB and NI.
“There is still much hard work needed on Northern Ireland issues if we are not to face another cliff edge in three or six months and retailers are to continue to give NI families the choice and affordability that they so desperately need.”
Glyn Roberts, Retail NI chief executive
“This is a very welcome development which will, no doubt, be a sigh of relief to our broader business community, worried with the prospect of huge disruption of a no deal.
“The transition period for many retailers and businesses will be a challenge and indeed there is also a huge amount of detail to be scrutinised in this deal.
“This gives us hope that 2021 will give Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole an opportunity to start anew with our relationships with the EU and begin the long process of repairing the economic damage caused by the pandemic.”
Nick Whelan, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association
“As was the case when the Withdrawal Agreement was agreed, this deal is welcome insofar as it takes us from the cliff edge – but it is far from perfect, and we still need clarity on a number of key areas.
“If the Northern Ireland protocol is to be durable, the UK and EU will need to address the challenges to local consumers of reduced choice and increased cost as a result of new administrative burdens on GB-NI trade.
“Additionally, we need a fair arbitration system to be in place from day one as there will be errors and teething problems as we come to terms with new procedures, and we want to minimise waste.”
Ian Henry, president of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry
“Our members will now need to see the detail and digest the agreement, and consider what its detailed provisions will mean for firms moving goods, people and data across borders.
“We must now see pragmatic steps to smooth the introduction of the new arrangements from January, including easements for genuine administrative errors, clear procedures at ports, and fast help from customs authorities.
“Nowhere is this more acute and urgent than for businesses trading between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
Dawn McLaughlin, Londonderry Chamber president
“An agreed trade deal was always paramount for businesses in Northern Ireland and while it has come at the last possible moment, companies across the country will be relieved to have some certainty and clarity going into 2021.
“A no deal, cliff-edge situation on 31 December was unthinkable for businesses in the north west and would have done untold damage to our regional economy, so it is a relief that this at least will be avoided.
“The government must now make clear to businesses what they must do to prepare for the incoming changes.
“The work does not end here.”