Research conducted by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) found that over half of construction SMEs in Northern Ireland said a hard border between the two countries would have a negative impact on purchasing products and materials.
Almost half of Northern Irish construction SMEs purchased building materials or products from the Republic and almost one third employed people who were based across the border.
The FMB found that one in three Northern Irish builders had seen their margins squeezed on projects since the depreciation of sterling following the EU referendum.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, wanted to see a return to the pre-1973 arrangement that saw 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.
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“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 easy must be dealt with sensitively.”
Rory Regan, director of Regan Building Contractors, said a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would make the day-to-day running of his 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.”
Brian added that the construction industry was central to the health of the Northern Irish 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.”