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Invest NI boss says Brexit focus to take priority over 'normal activity'

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Workshops: Alastair Hamilton

Workshops: Alastair Hamilton

Workshops: Alastair Hamilton

The head of Invest NI has said the economic development body is ramping up the help and advice it offers businesses here with just 30 days until Brexit.

Alastair Hamilton has also said the organisation could pull staff away from other work in order to cope with the extra work involved with leaving the EU as March 29 looms.

It comes just a few weeks after the board of Invest NI contacted the leaders of the political parties here to express concern over how unprepared many businesses are for Brexit.

The board urged the parties to work together to ensure "every possible step is taken to avoid the consequences which a no-deal scenario would have on the Northern Ireland business base".

Mr Hamilton told the Belfast Telegraph: "The original position that we would be neutral on Brexit was a board decision and rightly so.

"But it was made and fully supported by all of the executive team, including myself.

"It was right therefore that if we took a slight departure from that position, that it would be indicated by the board, who took the original decision.

"It is fully supported and endorsed by the full executive team in Invest Northern Ireland, and including myself, there is no difference at all between the position I hold as chief executive of the organisation and those views expressed by the board in that letter," he said.

The chief executive said there had been a considerable upturn in businesses engaging with Invest NI's workshops and advice clinics in the past week, with some events over-subscribed.

"We're prepared to run as many workshops as we need in the next 30 days to get people through and start the preparation," he said.

"We have a certain amount of flexibility in how we use our resources, year on year.

"We're able to manage the funding that we need at this point through to the end of March, without needing any additional funding from the department," he added.

"It means slowing down some other activity that's just not as big a priority as Brexit.

"Clearly, once we get to the end of March, we will then need to see the outcome and what that may mean then for the future.

"Our priority is to help companies survive and thrive in the immediate steps after March 29.

"If that means we need to slow down some of our normal business-as-usual activity and turn and pivot and focus on a much more hands-on approach, then that's exactly what we'll do."

Belfast Telegraph