Invest NI dispute claims Northern Ireland failed to attract foreign investment
NORTHERN Ireland was by far the worst performing part of the UK when it came to attracting foreign direct investment last year, according to a survey.
The latest EY Attractiveness Survey recorded a 62 per cent drop in the number of projects in the north last year.
According to the report, there were just 15 foreign direct investment projects in Northern Ireland last year.
However, Invest NI, the body responsible for attracting outside investors to the north said the statistics did not give a "full picture of FDI success in Northern Ireland".
Business advisers EY - formerly known as Ernst & Young - said the overall UK performance was "very positive".
It recorded 42,000 jobs created over 1,065 projects representing a jump of 20 per cent on 2014 and the highest since EY started its analysis in 1997.
Growth was driven by England's so-called 'Northern Powerhouse' with FDI projects in the north-west more than doubling (up 118 per cent).
Meanwhile, Scotland experienced a 51 per cent jump in investments while the west midlands saw foreign investment activity lift by 46 per cent.
The report, for which over 440 international firms were interviewed, said the UK accounted for just under 21 per cent of all the foreign investment in Europe, ahead of Germany, France and Spain.
Foreign investors said they were attracted to the UK's quality of life, culture, education, stability of social climate, telecommunications, and labour skills.
But the figures will have made uncomfortable reading for officials at Invest NI headquarters in Belfast.
And they took exception to some of the figures included in the report.
An Invest NI spokeswoman said: "Ernst & Young’s results count investment from outside of the UK during a calendar year and therefore exclude internationally mobile projects which Invest NI has secured and which otherwise would have been lost to the United Kingdom, for example, investments by UK business service company Intelling (250 jobs) and London-based fintech company Clarus Financial Technology (15 jobs).
"The results also only collate published information and therefore will not reflect investments secured for Northern Ireland which have not yet been announced. This report therefore does not reflect the full picture of FDI success in Northern Ireland last year."
She added that during the financial year to March 2016, "Invest NI secured 35 inward investment projects (not 15 as Ernst and Young record), of which 20 were new names to Northern Ireland".
"Invest NI does not target the absolute number of projects secured, but focuses on the jobs and the associated investment which will result. For new to Northern Ireland projects secured in 2015/16, both the number of jobs promoted and the investment secured are both substantially up, by 49 per cent and 43 per cent respectively."
EY chairman and UK & Ireland managing partner Steve Varley said the UK's performance was "nothing short of stellar".
However, when the report asked investors how they expected to UK to fare over the next three years only 36 per cent said they expected it to improve compared with 54 per cent last year, the lowest score since 2010.
"It is possible that the upcoming referendum on the UK's membership of the EU is also weighing on investors' minds," said Mr Varley.