Northern Ireland

BMF members account for approx. £830 million annual sales, employ more than 4,300 people, and trade from 147 locations in Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive have devolved responsibilities for:
- economic development
climate change, net zero & energy-efficiency
education, training & skills
- construction & infrastructure
housing & planning
water & flood defences


The BMF collaborates with the Construction Employers Federation, a trade association that represents contractors, house-builders and property developers.


From the start of lockdown, the Northern Ireland Executive adopted a favourable approach in its treatment of companies and how they could operate. Ministers said construction and its supply chain should continue to trade, subject to social distancing, and BMF members were free to stay open, if they chose to.
Northern Ireland had its own Recovery Roadmap for a staged approach to economic recovery. This included 6-week circuit break in which merchant branches were allowed to stay open - except for kitchen, bathroom, lighting & glazing showrooms - subject to 2-metre social distancing and other safety precautions - namely collections, deliveries & one-way flows within branches.

Current Topics

Northern Ireland Protocol
The Northern Ireland Protocol to the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement was agreed as a way to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. The Protocol took effect on 1 January 2021 and - for as long as it is in force - Northern Ireland aligns with all relevant EU rules on placing goods on the NI market. This ought to mean no extra processes, procedures or restrictions on the flow of goods - so called “unfettered access” - to the whole of UK market.

But this proved to be wholly incorrect - and firms encounter complex problems in shipping goods to Northern Ireland. For instance: goods imported from the EU that are unpacked & repacked in Great Britain - exported back to the EU - notably the Irish Republic but also Northern Ireland (due to the Protocol) - without any significant processing or adding value having been done - means companies have to deal with customs declarations & duties, rules of origin, VAT, etc.

The “goods at risk” issue stems from the EU who regard it as a threat. Smuggling goods over the land border with the Republic - and using Northern Ireland as a route to export goods from GB to the EU is a serious concern for Brussels. The European Commission wants to stop it and the onus falls (inevitably) on some BMF members to vouch that goods going into NI are used and stay within NI.

Unfortunately, all this is unlikely to be resolved in the near future for well-documented reasons - both between London, Brussels & Dublin - and among the political parties at Stormont.

Water Industry Infrastructure

Under-investment in Northern Ireland’s waste-water infrastructure is a long-standing issue. Overall capacity has failed to keep up with a growing need to provide a modern sewerage system fit for the 21st century. Northern Ireland Water is subject to a price control mechanism in which the regulator sets the budget and performance framework for a 6-year period. But it does not guarantee sufficient funding to allow NI Water to fulfil its remit and modernise its universal service.

The BMF and others want to see NI Water receive a more generous funding settlement, over a longer period of time, to both upgrade existing facilities and build extra capacity into its network. The completion of much-needed new homes is being prevented because the sewerage network, and water treatment works, are seriously underfunded and operating at (or beyond) capacity. There are approx. 100 locations where housing projects are stalled, or deferred, because builders cannot get new connections to the existing network.

The BMF is lobbying ministers in the UK Government and the NI Executive to grasp the situation - review current capital allocations - and increase spending to prioritise the required further investment.

Your first point-of-contact is Leo Bagnall on (028) 9074 9400 or [email protected]