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Industrial strategy 'will bring benefits to Northern Ireland'

By Margaret Canning

Secretary of State James Brokenshire has said the Prime Minister's new industrial strategy will bring opportunities to Northern Ireland.

Theresa May launched the Government's new industrial strategy for a post-Brexit UK as she held her first Cabinet meeting in the regions yesterday.

Mrs May and 30 ministers met in Cheshire to discuss a new approach as the nation prepares to exit the European single market.

The plans include a £556m boost for the so-called "northern powerhouse" in the north of England, an overhaul of technical education and £170m cash for a new emphasis on science, technology, engineering and innovation.

The Prime Minister opened the cabinet meeting with an address to her ministers on the new strategy for industry.

She said the strategy would be part of shaping "a stronger future for the UK and also ensure we are building a fairer Britain and a better Britain".

And the Secretary of State said he was confident that Northern Ireland would benefit.

"The industrial strategy is a vital part of the plan set out by the Prime Minister last week to drive growth across the whole UK and create more high skilled, high paid jobs and opportunities," he said.

"New sector deals and investment in research and development will support the industries of the future where the UK - and Northern Ireland in particular - has the potential to lead the world, from electric vehicles to biotech and quantum technologies."

The Government has also proposed a ministerial forum for each devolved nation to address barriers to productivity.

NI Chamber of Trade and Industry chief executive Ann McGregor said she hoped to address Northern Ireland's productivity.

"Low productivity has been a persistent feature of the Northern Ireland economy, with output (GVA) per hour worked in NI remaining the lowest of the 12 UK regions, lagging 19% behind the UK average," she said.

"The gap has been persistent and widening for many years despite being the target of a number of economic strategies."

And she said a new economic strategy should be a key priority for the Executive, and would work alongside the UK's new industrial strategy.

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