Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Bosses left in a fix by Euro candidates

Even though the economy is everyone’s number one priority these days, business leaders were left little the wiser after a hustings event involving Northern Ireland’s seven European Parliament candidates last week.

Organised by a variety of worthy associations including CBI, the Institute of Directors and NIIRTA, the hopefuls were asked to outline their economic credentials and state what they hoped to achieve for local businesses if they won a place in Brussels.

While there was agreement that the 736 MEPs in the European Parliament will have a key role to play in how Europe responds to the recession, there wasn’t a whole lot of detail as to precisely how that might be achieved.

Within the appropriate location of the Europa Hotel in Belfast, half the candidates managed to exceed the three-minute limit on their opening remarks, but then that’s politicians for you.

But the aspiring MEPs seemed a little wary of engaging with an audience which was arguably more clued in on the economic crisis than themselves.

A common theme among most of the political rivals was that more must be done to promote a green and renewable economy.

Others found common cause in complaining about the amount of red tape hindering our businesses in Europe.

The message was that Europe provides a wealth of opportunities which our businesses could grab by engaging more closely. But then again, it is important to keep our distance and still use our opt-outs when needed. All in all it was at best half-hearted, at worst a little lacklustre.

There were certainly few fireworks, aside from a few attempted digs from Jim Allister at his DUP and Sinn Fein rivals.

Perhaps the event’s scheduling did not help — it was held late on a Monday afternoon after most of the audience had completed a busy day in the office.

Or perhaps the slightly subdued mood is a further indication of just how unfazed people are by the prospect of the June 4 poll.