Belfast Telegraph

NI will maximise its potential as a place to do business


By Conor Burns, Trade Policy Minister

Northern Ireland is a vital part of the United Kingdom economy and plays an important role in securing the UK's shared prosperity.

So as someone who was born in Belfast and spent my formative years living here, it was an honour to return yesterday to meet with the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and businesses to discuss the opportunities for Northern Ireland to benefit from new free trade agreements.

As we prepare to leave the EU on October 31, I want to reassure businesses and families across Northern Ireland that their voice matters and will always be heard, as we work to strike new trade deals that will enable every part of the UK to embrace the new opportunities that will arise from Brexit.

As a Minister at the Department for International Trade, it is my job to promote Northern Ireland businesses abroad, help strike new and ambitious free trade agreements and make sure businesses across the UK are ready on October 31, whatever the circumstances.

Yesterday saw productive meetings with the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce as well as businesses, including AJ Power and Thales Air Defence, who rely on exports to support growth and jobs across the nation.

The stability and safety provided by the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement has allowed Northern Ireland to thrive and its economy to grow. This government's commitment to the Agreement remains steadfast.

That is why we are working to restore a stable devolved government so Northern Ireland can maximise its potential as a place to invest and do business - and it's why the Prime Minister has said we will never place physical checks or infrastructure on the border.

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We have been absolutely clear that all new free trade agreement deals must work for the whole of the UK. On top of this, I am committed to making sure businesses in Northern Ireland have the resources they need to increase their global footprint and take advantage of new overseas markets. Northern Ireland is a major exporter, with goods worth £9bn last year, so they have an important part to play in the UK's trade. As the union, we can build stronger and deeper ties with some of the world's largest and fastest growing economies.

We have already consulted on future trade deals with the USA, Australia, New Zealand and CPTPP, a group of 11 Pacific nations, which received useful input from businesses across the UK, including Northern Ireland. I want businesses and people across Northern Ireland to continue to shape the UK's trade policy agenda.

By backing a global rules-based and free trade agenda, we can help make sure industries in Northern Ireland can continue to go from strength to strength.

  • Conor Burns is a Minister of State in the Department for International Trade

Belfast Telegraph