Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Northern Ireland businesses have given public a voice

Editor's Viewpoint

In the absence of political leadership in Northern Ireland it has been up to civic society, particularly the business community through all its sectors, to give voice to the concerns facing the province in these uncertain times.

Tonight, the leader of the UK's biggest business organisation, the CBI, will issue a blunt message to our politicians - don't throw away the economic gains which have flowed from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement 20 years ago.

While the political benefits of the Agreement are now open to debate, Carolyn Fairbairn makes a compelling argument for the benefits of the Agreement - Northern Ireland businesses have created an extra 160,000 jobs in the two decades, unemployment is at its lowest ever level and Irish product exports have risen 6% year on year.

Businesses are in the business of making money and they prosper best in a stable environment which enjoys a good international reputation. Northern Ireland's political reputation has taken a battering over the last 16 months of impasse and the lack of political decision has also meant that vital incentives for economic development have not been introduced.

There is no economic development plan and the proposed reduction in corporation tax, once seen as the most powerful incentive for inward investors, is still a proposal.

In the meantime, as Ms Fairbairn points out, the greatest challenge of all, Brexit, is progressing without any voice from Northern Ireland at the negotiating table. It is the only devolved administration in the UK not to be able to articulate its feelings on the issue.

The CBI leader is right. We should be thankful to the business community for being the voice of the economy, speaking up for jobs, prosperity and living standards.

If local politicians had any shame at their dereliction of duty they should be red-faced at these comments. They are sitting in their silos while others pick their way through the economic debris salvaging what they can and pointing out a way ahead.

There is no point in politicians, local or national, simply mouthing platitudes such as there will be no hard border when it is patently obvious that leaving the customs union can only ensure the opposite.

It is time for politicians to abandon their stand-off and seek pragmatic ways of making Brexit work as well as getting back to the serious work of running the province.

Belfast Telegraph

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