Belfast Telegraph

Government 'unrelenting' in efforts to safeguard Bombardier jobs: Business Secretary Clark

By Jonathan Bell

Business secretary Greg Clark pledged the government would not relent in its efforts to safeguard jobs of Bombardier workers in Belfast.

The minister was updating the House of Commons on the situation after the Canadian aerospace manufacturer was hit with tariffs amounting to 300% by the US government after a complaint from rival Boeing that state aid gave the firm an unfair advantage.

MP Clark said they would demonstrate aid given to Bombardier was "completely in line with international norms" and "consistent with the assistant Boeing has had".

"And we will demonstrate that in a convincing way," he said.

The complaint against Bombardier centres over its C Series aircraft, which has its wings made in Belfast.  Mr Clark said that as Boeing did not make a similar aircraft then there was no example of "detriment" against the firm and "no stone would be left un-turned" in defending Bombardier in the case.  He said he expected the matter to be "thrown out" by the US Department of Commerce.

The process in America runs to February when there will be a final ruling.

"We will look to the US to ensure the process is rigorous and not politically influenced," he said.

"This is not the behaviour we expect from a trusted partner and it will have implications on the future relationship between the UK and Boeing.

"We will continue to vigorously and robustly defend Bombardier jobs in Belfast and work with the Canadian government to do so.

"We will not give up... we will do whatever it takes ... we will not relent until these jobs are safe."

Speaking in the Commons, Ian Paisley described as "despicable" that there were those that used the peace process, the "spectre of the border" and plight of the workers as "some sort of critique" of how the government was dealing with the issue.

"Come crunch time," he said "the British Government should not be found wanting in how they defend British workers in Northern Ireland."

East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson, who has called for the government to take a tough stance, welcomed the minister's comments and noted the number of senior members of government which were in the Commons for the statement, demonstrating he said, the government's support to the case.

After the statement, he said: "It is vital that our Government now does step up efforts, alongside the Canadian administration as we move towards the next stage in this process in February. Similarly it is important that the workers both in Belfast and in Canada know that there are meaningful and genuine consequences in store should there not be an adequate resolution to this case.”

Meanwhile, a group of workers from the Belfast factory are to fly to London on Wednesday to press MPs on getting the government to act and defend their jobs.

They will unveil a giant banner outside parliament and call on Prime Minister Theresa May to summon Boeing to a summit with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and workforce representatives.

Assistant general secretary of trade union Unite Steve Turner said: “The British government has a duty to defend UK manufacturing jobs against the bullying behaviour of Boeing.

“A failure to do so will signal that any ambition ministers have for a coherent industrial strategy is effectively in tatters and that they are happy to put Trump’s ‘America First’ policy ahead of UK manufacturing jobs.

“Boeing’s case is without merit, a fact that Prime Minster Theresa May has herself admitted. Theresa May and her government need to be battling for Northern Ireland’s Bombardier workforce which makes some of the most technologically advanced wings in the world.

“The UK government must heed the call of Bombardier’s Northern Ireland workers and summon Boeing to an urgent summit involving prime minister Theresa May and the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and trade unions.

“Ministers should leave Boeing in no doubt that a failure to do so will lead to sanctions on current and future work on behalf of the UK government.”

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