Business

Politicians urged to 'act responsibly for business'

Ellvena Graham
Gary McDonald Business Editor

BUSINESS leaders in the north say politicians grappling to form a functioning government in the wake of the hung Parliament general election outcome "must act responsibly" by putting the interests of the country first and showing the world that all parts of the UK are "a safe destination for business".

And given the influence the DUP might have as the potential makeweight to save Theresa May's premiership, they are calling on Northern Ireland's Westminster MPs to support a City Deal for Belfast, the abolishment of air passenger duty and the reduction of corporation tax to support investment.

Ellvena Graham, president of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: “This result has accomplished the unlikely feat of piling more uncertainty on business communities already grappling with a number of issues including a shortage of skilled workers, currency fluctuations, high up-front costs, and the Brexit process.

“In terms of the UK, the speedy formation of a government that can give businesses confidence around both economic management and Brexit negotiations must be the absolute top priority.

“In terms of Northern Ireland, our political parties must now resume talks and come to an agreement whereby government can re-start again. It is now time to put the Northern Ireland economy first.

“While there are many positive developments in the Northern Ireland economy, we also have challenges in terms of long term unemployment, low levels of export compared to other UK regions, a shortage of funding for infrastructure development and a serious shortage of skills.

“We therefore need the Stormont Executive to reform, agree a final programme for government, an economic strategy and establish a single Northern Ireland action plan on Brexit to address key business concerns.

“But it is crucial that whatever agreement is reached with the EU results in no ‘hard' border with the Republic.”

Angela McGowan, CBI's Northern Ireland director, said now was “a very serious juncture" for the north's economy, and he priority must be for politicians to get their house in order and form a functioning government, reassure markets and provide stability for the sake of the economy.

“Politicians must act responsibly, putting the interests of the country first and showing the world that all regions across the UK are a safe destination for business. It's time to put the economy back to the top of the agenda where it belongs," she said.

Ms McGowan said Northern Ireland's special circumstances must be at the forefront of any Brexit discussions if the region is to succeed, and insisted: "A hard-Brexit would not work for our business and agricultural community, and we may now have a one-off opportunity to ensure that it does not happen in an economically destructive way.”

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