Belfast Telegraph

Robust policy around energy is key to drive business: UUP leader

By John Mulgrew

Energy policy and securing the North-South Interconnector for electricity are the key drivers for business in Northern Ireland, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has said.

Mr Nesbitt was speaking to business leaders during a Northern Ireland Chamber event in Belfast yesterday.

"We believe in free trade, a light touch government with minimum regulation, and policy levers that encourage successful businesses to reinvest their profits in growth, be that through corporation tax, rates, National Insurance contributions, enterprise zones, tax credits and the rest," he said.

Mr Nesbitt was speaking at the office of drinks giant Diageo at the second NI Chamber event of its '5 Leaders 5 Days' series. On Tuesday DUP chief Arlene Foster spoke to businesses at BT Riverside House in Belfast.

Mr Nesbitt referred to his late father and uncle's linen business, A Nesbitt & Co.

"My first role as MLA was as my party's economy spokesperson, a role I loved, not least as my family's history is as traders in Belfast city centre," Mr Nesbitt said.

"Politicians are not wealth generators - you are. So what would be different on an Ulster Unionist watch would be an Executive prepared to listen and have a concordant approach to growing the economy. Representative groups like NI Chamber know how to make the economy work.

"In a post-Brexit world we must have clear demands of the UK Government, including a step change in infrastructure investment and education and skills. Above all, we need the new electricity interconnector with the Republic and the Ireland single electricity market (I-SEM).

"Otherwise, as SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) makes clear, some may celebrate Northern Ireland's centenary by candlelight.

"We prioritise energy policy and hope to publish a new, imaginative but robust policy within days."

Nick Coburn, president of NI Chamber, reiterated that "reducing energy costs and a secure supply of electricity are key priorities for our members, this is why we very much welcome the support for the delivery of the North-South Interconnector".

A public inquiry into the Northern Ireland section of the £200m interconnector resumes this month. The Republic has already approved its part of the project. "This is an essential piece of infrastructure which will allow the all-island electricity market to do what it was designed to do," Mr Coburn said.

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