Karen Bradley: Brexit deal must be passed for UK economy to flourish
This week in Westminster, the Prime Minister and I have been working hard to explain why the Brexit deal is in the national interest.
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In Northern Ireland, and in my own constituency in Staffordshire Moorlands, I consistently hear that what people want is for the government to get on with it and deliver a deal that makes sure we leave the EU in an orderly way and allows the people of Northern Ireland to take full advantage of the opportunities ahead.
One of this government's achievements was the publication a year ago of our Industrial Strategy. This puts the whole of the United Kingdom in prime position to seize new opportunities as we leave the EU.
As we establish our new relationship with Europe, the Industrial Strategy will help us to build the foundations behind our withdrawal agreement. Our prosperity and ability to build a strong economy is dependent on how we encourage innovation, develop high quality jobs and skills, and support businesses throughout the UK to thrive and grow.
Northern Ireland has a world-leading reputation in key sectors, including construction and automotive, as well as future industries such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), cyber security and life sciences.
The Industrial Strategy has led to specific partnerships between the government and these industries, which will help these major employers in Northern Ireland face the future outside the EU with confidence.
Today I am pleased to announce, with the Business Secretary Greg Clark, £700,000 of funding from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund for the County Antrim-based life sciences company Randox. This will pay for the research and development of cutting-edge technology to enable diagnostic tools to be manufactured more quickly and effectively.
Eventually, this will lead to more manufacturing jobs as a result.
Northern Ireland is also benefiting from UK-wide funding programmes under the Industrial Strategy, including Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon who have successfully bid for £2.4m and Belfast for £11.5m as some of the 13 areas benefiting from the £95m Full Fibre Networks Challenge fund, designed to increase connectivity across the UK.
The UK has a strong economy, with eight straight years of economic growth, over 3 million more people in jobs, and higher employment and lower unemployment in every region and nation of the UK - we should be proud of this.
We are open and enterprising, founded on invention, innovation and competition.
In Northern Ireland, employment levels are almost at a record high, and the UK government is determined to build on this progress.
We are at the forefront of scientific invention because we embrace change and use regulation to stimulate an environment for creativity.
We have globally admired universities and research institutions, such as Queen's and Ulster University, because we have nurtured our intellectual powerhouses with public investment. And we have a deserved reputation for being a dependable and confident place to do business because we have high standards, clear regulation and great partnerships.
The UK's businesses can take on the world because they have access to a skilled workforce and modern infrastructure, and Northern Ireland is an important and growing part of that.
The Prime Minister, the rest of our Cabinet colleagues and I will continue working to secure the best Brexit deal for the whole of the UK.
At the same time we are delivering our long-term plan to support businesses throughout the UK to thrive and grow.
Building on the great strides the Industrial Strategy has already taken so that after we leave the EU, our businesses and institutions are in the best possible position to build on our strengths and lead the world.
Karen Bradley MP is Secretary of State for Northern Ireland