Northern Ireland's DUP and business groups react cautiously to EU proposals

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BELFAST, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Northern Ireland's largest pro-British party said on Wednesday the European Union's proposed measures to ease the transit of goods to Northern Ireland from Britain are a "starting point" but "appear to fall far short of the fundamental change needed".

Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the DUP, said his party "will take time to study the detail of the papers produced" while repeating its position that the Northern Ireland Protocol harms Northern Ireland in economic and constitutional terms.

Last month the DUP said it would withdraw from the region's power-sharing government - a key plank of its 1998 peace deal - within weeks unless big changes were made to the terms of Britain's divorce deal with the European Union. read more

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The protocol - agreed as part the divorce accord to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland - keeps the British-run region, in effect, in the EU's customs union and single market for goods.

The EU's proposals to slash paperwork and checks on food coming into Northern Ireland from mainland Britain and ensure the flow of medicines was not disturbed were cautiously welcomed by business groups in Northern Ireland. read more

"We welcome signs of movement from both sides, which we have always said would be necessary if we were to find a lasting solution," the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group said in a statement.

"If these proposals are to work then they must meet the tests that have been set out by the NI business community, namely that they must provide stability, certainty, simplicity and affordability."

Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said the proposal "moves the situation forward and hopefully to a long-term solution which gives our members greater stability in trading with GB suppliers and wholesalers".

"There is much to recommend in the EU proposals and is clear that they are listening to the concerns of the local business community. We will take time to examine them and consult with our members before we give a considered final view."

CBI Europe Director Sean McGuire said the "UK and EU have listened to business on many of the technical solutions needed to protect GB-NI trade."

"Both sides must now grasp this opportunity to get back round the table – and agree sustainable long-term solutions that work for businesses and communities in Northern Ireland."

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Writing by Graham Fahy, editing by Ed Osmond and Philippa Fletcher

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