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Economy Minister Diane Dodds today launched a new online tool to help services exporters prepare for the end of the transition period.

The tool, known as the Market Access Policy Simulator (MAPS), has been created by the Department for the Economy to help services businesses understand the new regulatory barriers which they may face when trading with the Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland is a services economy, with latest figures indicating that the sector accounts for around 75% of gross value added (GVA) and around 80% of employment. Although historically focussed towards the domestic market, cultivating sales in external markets is now a growing, and increasingly important, part of the success of the sector. While GB remains the most significant market for external services sales, amounting to around £4.4billion in sales, exports of services to the EU account for £1.5billion. Some £1.1billion of those sales are destined for the Republic of Ireland.

The Minister said: “While talks continue between the UK and EU to come to an agreement on a trade deal, businesses now need to put plans in place for the new trading environment that could emerge following the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

‘’Northern Ireland has a very large, diverse and competitive services sector and our ability to access other markets and sell our services outside of NI is increasingly important. It is vital that all services businesses that trade with the EU are ready and understand what changes they may have to make.”

The Minister continued: “I appreciate that many businesses are already devoting great resource and capacity to responding to the challenges presented by Covid. As a result, it is not easy to give planning for the end of the transition period the focus and attention it requires. This MAPS tool is aimed at facilitating that planning and is focussed on helping businesses who sell services into our most important export market, the Republic of Ireland."

The Minister concluded: “The tool will give users an indication of the types of regulatory changes that they could experience when trading from 1 January 2021 by allowing them to compare the current trading environment, within EU single market rules, with the new regulatory environment which may emerge, and determine a course of action to prepare.”

Ciarán Fox, Director of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects, welcomed the launch of the MAPS tool commenting: “The impact of EU Exit on services trade has often been overshadowed in the discussions about NI and the economy. NI has many successful services sectors and we are recognised for delivering high quality services to our customers in a variety of markets. Given the nature of our economy, and the fact we share a land border with the Republic of Ireland, that is a particularly important market for our sector. This tool will play an important part in helping our members navigate the new trading environment which may emerge in January 2021 and we welcome its publication.