A major new economic report published today seeks to provide a blueprint for economic growth and prosperity in Northern Ireland over the next 10 years and beyond.
Trade NI, an alliance of three of Northern Ireland’s largest trade bodies – Hospitality Ulster, Manufacturing Northern Ireland, and Retail Northern Ireland – launched the paper to a reception of over 200 business leaders, senior cabinet ministers, over 65 embassies, 80 MPs, and policy makers at an event on the House of Commons Terrace this afternoon.
There will also be a reception at the Irish Embassy in London later this evening hosted by Irish Ambassador to the UK Martin Fraser.
Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris MP and Shadow Secretary of State Peter Kyle MP were among the senior frontbench MPs delivering keynote speeches at the event in Westminster.
‘A Region Transformed and Creating Prosperity For All: The Prosperity Dividend’, produced by accountancy and business advisory consultancy BDO NI, focuses on the economic transformation of Northern Ireland since 1998. It examines how local industries, businesses, and high streets have been boosted by peace, prosperity, and greater stability. The report identifies key strengths of the Northern Irish economy and how these can be leveraged to deliver greater economic growth and prosperity in future decades for local communities and businesses.
The day of engagement is sponsored by BDO, Danske Bank, DWF Law, Heathrow Airport, and Foyle Port. The Westminster reception is hosted by North Down MP and Alliance deputy leader, Dr Stephen Farry.
Recommendations in the major economic paper include:
- Creation of pathways to ensure our businesses have the people they need to deliver for customers, consumers and our economic opportunity.
- More investment in our Universities and Further Education Colleges to increase the number of places and stop the ‘brain drain’ from Northern Ireland.
- Giving businesses access to its Apprenticeship Levy money and establishing Northern Ireland as a pilot area for a “Skills Tax Credit” scheme to rapidly skill up industries and establish a new funding stream for public and private sector training.
- Public Sector reform to reverse the region’s historic dependency on this sector and to capitalise on the potential of the current Public Sector workforce across the Private Sector instead.
- A commitment that UK economic levers, whether that be in support for decarbonisation, childcare or economic zones reaches Northern Ireland, its businesses and communities.
- Enhanced ground and air connectivity, abolishment of Air Passenger Duty and reduce hospitality & tourism VAT to make the region more accessible and attractive for both commerce and tourism.
- Capitalising on our unique dual-market access trading position.
- Overhauling the planning process to enable economic growth.
- The creation of multifunction hubs incorporating businesses, libraries, community services, healthcare, education, homes and sporting facilities.
In a joint statement, the representatives of Trade NI, Glyn Roberts (Retail NI), Colin Neill (Hospitality Ulster) and Stephen Kelly (Manufacturing NI) said:
“This is a blueprint for economic growth and prosperity for Northern Ireland. While it also looks back and recognises how far we have come over the past 25 years, our document is about a path to greater economic success over the next decade and beyond. We want Northern Ireland to be the very best place in the UK to locate, start and scale up a business.
“Northern Ireland has vast untapped potential. We have a skilled workforce, a steady pipeline of talent from our higher and further education institutions, dual market access, and emerging clusters in new industries like tech, cyber security, and health and life sciences. But there is so much more we can achieve if we get the fundamental building blocks in place.
“Things like ensuring political stability at Stormont, fixing our planning system to facilitate speedier construction of major capital infrastructure projects, investing in our educational institutions to ensure our workforce of the future has the right skills and competencies, capitalising on our dual market access, and reforming our public sector to remove our dependence on it.
“The fact that today is the largest ever Northern Ireland trade mission to Westminster proves the interest that there is in our region. Today’s events are about selling a positive message of Northern Ireland to potential investors and key decision makers from the Government, Parliament, and the global diplomatic community, and ensuring that the prosperity promised by the Good Friday Agreement becomes a reality in the coming years.”
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Chris Heaton-Harris MP said:
“Northern Ireland is a great place to live, work and do business, and this Trade NI report reflects its huge economic potential. The recent Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement anniversary events have shown the huge progress Northern Ireland has made in the last twenty-five years, and I am determined that the spirit of optimism of those events is seized for the benefit of all in Northern Ireland.
“With Northern Ireland’s strengths in key growth sectors, workforce expertise, the drive and creativity of its business community, and the benefits of the Windsor Framework providing a stable framework for the future, I’m confident it can continue to grow and thrive.
“I welcome the contribution that Trade NI have made to the debate on how to secure prosperity in Northern Ireland and I look forward to the continued opportunity to engage with their members on how the UK Government can help deliver the continued prosperity that Northern Ireland deserves.”
Vicky Davies, Chief Executive of Danske Bank, said:
“We are very proud to be supporting Trade NI with this initiative. A vibrant, growing private sector is vital if we are to ensure a strong future for Northern Ireland’s economy and communities. There is a lot of global goodwill for our region and continued support from those who could influence the future growth of our economy is so important. We must harness the opportunity in front of us, ensuring a path is set that will allow us to be the best we can be over the next 25 years.”
Julie Galbraith, Executive Partner, DWF Law, added:
“DWF is pleased to back Trade NI and their mission to deliver on the economic promise of the Good Friday Agreement. Northern Ireland has a strong message to sell to investors across the globe, leading the world in exciting sectors like fintech, cyber-security, and health and life sciences. This is another opportunity to sell that story to key decision makers from across the UK and bring further investment to our part of the world.”
Nigel Milton, Chief of Staff, Heathrow Airport, also said:
“Heathrow Airport is delighted to once again be supporting the Trade NI Westminster Day of engagement. Northern Ireland is a crucial market for businesses and airlines across the UK and further afield. Heathrow plays a vital role in keeping Northern Ireland connected to other major economic markets across the globe and we are keen to see greater economic prosperity for the region over the next 25 years.”