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Business leaders set out key priorities for Stormont after EU vote

By Lisa Smyth

Access to a skilled workforce, developing major infrastructure projects and attracting foreign investment are the key concerns for firms here following Brexit, it has been claimed.

The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) has laid out its list of priorities following the EU referendum in a policy document launched yesterday.

The organisation, which represents hundreds of businesses across Northern Ireland, has said it will continue to work to ensure its members’ interests are protected and developed amid the economic uncertainty of Brexit.

It has pointed to the requirement of stability for markets and business confidence, clarity on the timeframe for key decisions and action to proactively support the economy at a sensitive time of transition.

Nick Coburn, president of NI Chamber, said: “Whilst our members’ views on the EU referendum are diverse, our energy is now focused on overcoming the immediate challenges, and seizing the eventual opportunities, that transition will bring.

“Following a brief period of reflection, businesses want to understand when changes will occur in government, when Article 50 will be triggered, and what the timeframe for negotiation will be thereafter.”

According to the document, there are six strategic issues of immediate concern to NI Chamber members.

The document states: “Northern Ireland’s exporting firms are rightly concerned about maintenance of existing market access, future trading agreements and a potential physical border between Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland.

“The future of manufacturing, on which so many other sectors depend, must continue to be a priority.

“Against a backdrop of rising costs, support from the Northern Ireland Executive is crucial in setting a level playing field with other regions and countries.”

It also calls for movement on major projects, singling out all-island energy and the A5 and A6 projects.

“These deliver much-needed infrastructure, but also supply chain benefits and significantly boost business confidence,” the document says.

It also calls for Stormont to press ahead with its plans to implement a reduced corporation tax level by April 2018.

“It is more important than ever that Northern Ireland contributes to sell itself as an attractive location for inward investment based on the combination of tax, talent and value in light of the UK’s exit from Europe,” it continues.

It also calls for swift reassurance on the future status of EU employees.

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