Belfast Telegraph

Bombardier Boeing row unites Sinn Fein and DUP

By John Mulgrew

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill have written to US Vice President Mike Pence over the "very grave economic threat" facing Bombardier in Northern Ireland, warning it could have repercussions for the peace process.

It follows the eruption of a transatlantic trade war that could impact on more than 4,000 Bombardier workers here.

The row centres around a legal challenge by rival North American aerospace manufacturer Boeing.

The US giant is objecting to the sale of the Canadian firm's aircraft - in particular its flagship CSeries passenger jets - at what it claims is a below-market rate, subsidised in part by a $1bn bailout from Quebec's regional government.

The challenge by Boeing, if successful, could effectively price out and cut off Bombardier's largest market in the US and lead to major job losses.

Prime Minister Theresa May has already spoken to President Donald Trump over the issue.

She is also due to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau next week.

Now Mrs Foster and Mrs O'Neill have written to Mr Pence in the White House to say that if Boeing's case succeeds, "this would have serious implications for the future of the CSeries aircraft and Bombardier's Belfast operation".

The letter says that "as the leaders of the two main political parties elected to the Northern Ireland Assembly we are writing to you to seek your assistance in addressing a very grave economic threat facing Bombardier in the region".

"Bombardier Belfast is our largest manufacturer, and a highly significant exporter and employer in this region.

"The value of its operations covers an extensive supply chain. For a small economy such as ours, the significance of the contribution that Bombardier makes cannot be understated.

"The threat facing us as a result of the ongoing case is alarming, and goes much wider than it may immediately appear.

"The security of our economy has and continues to be a crucial part of our efforts in delivering peace through prosperity. At a time when we are striving to take the next steps in our work on the peace process, and resolve our current political difficulties, this issue creates a new and potentially critical factor."

Secretary of State James Brokenshire said he Government was "working tirelessly" to safeguard Bombardier's operations.

Speaking during Northern Ireland Questions in the Commons, Mr Brokenshire said: "Our priority is to encourage Boeing to drop its case and seek a negotiated settlement."

His comments came as DUP MP Nigel Dodds raised the issue of jobs in the Bombardier plant in Belfast and urged the Secretary of State to "remain fully committed and involved with us to ensure that those jobs are safeguarded".

Mr Brokenshire stressed the Prime Minister was fuly engaged on the issue.

"Whilst this is a commercial matter, as he knows the UK Government is working tirelessly to safeguard Bombardier's operations and its highly skilled workforce in Belfast," he said.

"I remain closely in contact with the Business Secretary (Greg Clark), he has had extensive engagement with Boeing, with Bombardier, with the Canadian Government and the US Government.

"I do note that both the leaders of the DUP and Sinn Fein have issued a joint letter to the Vice President underlining the particular circumstances, the real significance of this in Northern Ireland, and I would certainly encourage all to play their part in seeking a resolution."

Belfast Telegraph

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