Belfast Telegraph

Trade groups form alliance to call for radical overhaul of Northern Ireland economic policy

From left, Manufacturing NI's Stephen Kelly, Hospitality Ulster's Colin Neill and Retail NI's Glyn Roberts
From left, Manufacturing NI's Stephen Kelly, Hospitality Ulster's Colin Neill and Retail NI's Glyn Roberts
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

Three Northern Ireland trade groups have joined forces to give business "a louder voice" in a move supported by Danske Bank.

Trade NI is made up of Hospitality Ulster, Manufacturing NI and Retail NI, whose chiefs said they wanted to provide leadership on economic issues.

They added their membership accounted for the majority of companies in the Northern Irish private sector.

The alliance was formed in advance of a "Northern Ireland Day" in Westminster on September 11. The event is designed to promote local businesses.

Trade NI said it wanted to promote four priorities for a new Stormont Executive - increasing productivity, reducing the burden of regulation, increasing the skills base and delivering a clear economic strategy.

It said a new approach was needed to counter Brexit uncertainty, the absence of a devolved government and Cabinet changes linked to the incoming new Prime Minister.

It also stressed that a general election could not be ruled out.

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Stephen Kelly, who leads Manufacturing NI; Colin Neill, head of Hospitality Ulster; and Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, said: "Northern Ireland is facing huge economic and political challenges, with Brexit, no Assembly and a rapidly changing global economy.

"Trade NI will seek to give leadership on behalf of our three sectors and provide new policy solutions to creating a modern local economy."

The group said that the "paralysis" in the Assembly and Executive meant that very little had been done to address the needs of the economy.

"The shift of power from Stormont to Westminster means that we must press decision-makers there to implement policies and make legislative changes that will help grow Northern Ireland," it added.

"Our local economy and businesses have taken a back seat and we simply cannot afford that situation any longer.

"We want a reboot of the economic policy of Northern Ireland in order to benefit our economy and safeguard our growing business community."

Kevin Kingston, chief executive of Danske Bank, the main sponsor of Trade NI's Westminster reception, said: "Danske Bank is proud to back Trade NI, who are contributing to the ongoing education of Westminster politicians on Northern Ireland and the evolving business landscape of the region.

"Northern Ireland has a strong business community and should be considered across the UK as a thriving business hub for the global market."

Belfast Telegraph