Business leaders, trade bodies and industry experts met Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire in Belfast today (Thursday 1 September) for the inaugural meeting of a new Northern Ireland Business Advisory Group designed to ensure Northern Ireland’s interests are fully represented in forthcoming EU exit negotiations and that the voice of its businesses continues to be heard.
Mr Brokenshire was joined at today’s meeting by Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis, who is visiting Northern Ireland for the first time since taking office.
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland’s new group also reflects the UK Government’s determination to safeguard the whole UK economy and forge a new global role, with Northern Ireland playing a crucial part. Today’s meeting follows the Secretary of State’s intensive engagement with political and business leaders and community groups across Northern Ireland over recent weeks.
In what was the first in a series of ongoing meetings, the terms and scope of the group were be agreed. The Secretary of State led the discussion towards immediate economic priorities on trade and markets for Northern Ireland ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU. Wider questions about boosting skills in Northern Ireland and cutting costs to business were also covered.
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire said:
Over the past six years we have stuck to our economic plan and seen great progress: employment is up over 2 million across the UK. In Northern Ireland there are 55,000 more people in work since 2010 and 28,600 people have left the unemployment register since its peak in 2013 – a fall of 44.2 per cent.
Now we must build on this progress and make the most of the opportunities that our departure from the EU offers to Northern Ireland – getting out into the world and doing business, while at home building a strong United Kingdom that works for everyone.
I will continue to engage with political and business leaders and community groups to ensure that Northern Ireland’s interests are fully represented in forthcoming EU exit negotiations. I genuinely believe the talent, resilience and global outlook of the business community in Northern Ireland promises to put us right at the centre of things.
And I will work alongside the Executive to promote the wonderful exports that Northern Ireland has to offer and highlight Northern Ireland’s great potential as place to invest and do business. The Business Advisory Group will complement these efforts and will be an important platform for new ideas and solutions as we work together to make a success of Brexit.
Secretary of State for Exiting the EU David Davis said:
Leaving the EU gives Britain an opportunity to forge a new role in the world and be a positive and powerful force for free trade.
I am determined that we reach out to the parts of the UK where people didn’t support an exit from the European Union in as many numbers as elsewhere, as well as those where big majorities voted to Leave.
So it is good to be in Northern Ireland today, hearing what people want from our new relationship with Europe.
Everyone has a voice in these negotiations and you can rest assured that Northern Ireland’s will be heard – loud and clear.
Businesses in Northern Ireland will have a key role to play in this and today’s inaugural event is one of a series of detailed discussions underway to make sure that we make the most of the opportunities that Brexit affords for businesses and the people they employ.
Immediate Past-President and Board member of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry Stephen McCully said:
Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry believes that our political leaders have a crucial role to play in securing the best possible outcome for local businesses – putting NI plc at the centre of the post-Brexit political discussion.
Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry therefore welcomes the opportunity to attend today’s first meeting of the Business Advisory Group led by the Secretary of State. I feel confident that the Secretary of State, having established the group so early in his term of office, understands the unique position of Northern Ireland businesses. NI Chamber will highlight the importance of all-island trade to our members, and look forward to future discussions around this important area.