Belfast Telegraph

DUP urged to pressure May after extent of Bombardier aid revealed

By John Mulgrew

A trade union has suggested that the DUP should flex its muscles at Westminster after it emerged that the Government only made a four page submission to the US authorities in defence of Bombardier jobs.

The Government was also accused of betraying the east Belfast workforce after BBC Spotlight revealed that the Government told US authorities it did not consider itself a "legally proper party" to the planemaker's trade dispute with Boeing.

Ahead of a crucial announcement that could affect 4,000 Bombardier workers in Northern Ireland, it was revealed that 800 pages were submitted by Bombardier, while the Canadian government needed around 170 pages to make its case.

The US Commerce Department plans to impose duties of 292% on imports of Bombardier's C Series commercial jets after Boeing complained they had been unfairly subsidised by Canada's regional government in Quebec. The US International Trade Commission (ITC) could set aside the decision when it meets tomorrow.

Jackie Pollock of Unite said the lack of serious action by the Government - which relies on DUP votes in the Commons for its survival - was indefensible.

"For weeks we have been calling out the lack of urgency from prime minister Theresa May on this issue and the threat it poses to tens of thousands of workers in the UK and Ireland," he said.

"We have repeatedly demanded she fly to Washington to raise the jobs threat directly with the US president, but so far all that has been done has been two phone calls."

He said while the DUP are genuinely concerned about the threat to jobs, "we have to ask them what confidence they have in the promises and assurances that have been supplied to them by the Government".

"After tonight they must put the workforce of Bombardier first in Westminster; the only thing to satisfy our members will be real delivery from the UK Government," he added.

Business Secretary Greg Clark rejected claims that the Government had not done enough to fight for jobs at Bombardier, and said it was "quite the reverse".

Mr Clark said the Government had submitted some 7,000 pages of documents to the US Department of Commerce to back its case. However, that is a separate body, which gave the initial ruling that a 292% tariff would be applied on the sale of Bombardier C Series planes to the US.

Spotlight also said letters from the Government to the ITC showed it had asked for "more time" to submit its case. And in one case, it said it experienced delays due to the annual Twelfth holiday, with civil servants off work.

Labour MP and shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith accused the Government of having "more concern with the optics" of trying to protect Northern Ireland jobs.

East Belfast DUP MP Gavin Robinson said he wasn't aware of how many documents the Government had supplied to the ITC to back its case for Bombardier and Northern Ireland jobs.

But Ulster Unionist economy spokesperson Alan Chambers MLA said the revelations were "simply incredible".

He added: "what does this say about the influence the DUP really has over the Conservative Government if a four page memo is the best they can do in a bid to save thousands of vital Belfast jobs?"

And Ulster Bank economist, Richard Ramsey, said any major hit to Bombardier could "blow a hole" in Northern Ireland's manufacturing sector, many of which supply parts to Bombardier.

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.