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We must stay in world's biggest trading bloc

LAST week we in Northern Ireland enjoyed one of Europe's greatest cycle races. But probably more relevant in the long-term was the announcement of nearly 2,000 jobs in the greater Belfast area – many commanding high, professional wages.

As our neighbouring jurisdictions begin to drift back towards economic growth, the evidence is that we in Northern Ireland are in fact getting there faster – with our wealth and job creation levels now outstripping our neighbours.

Some fear this success will be threatened, as China overtakes the United States to become the world's largest economy. However, we are already part of the world's largest trading and economic bloc – namely the European Union.

What is more, to ensure that we remain ahead, the EU and United States are now negotiating a free trade deal which will not only create the world's largest trading bloc, but which will make Northern Ireland central to that bloc.

We are not just geographically central, but also economically central, as people become increasingly aware of the excellence of our screen industries, specialised manufacturing and tourist offering. It is, frankly, astounding that anyone would put this once-in-a-generation opportunity at risk by suggesting we deprive ourselves of being at the heart of the world's largest trading bloc.

It is our job not to step outside the room, but to get to the negotiating table.

IAN JAMES PARSLEY

Chair, European Movement NI

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