Northern Ireland news

Scorn poured on Karen Bradley's 'businesses booming' claims

Secretary of State Karen Bradley said Northern Ireland is "on the up". Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

SECRETARY of State Karen Bradley has claimed businesses in Northern Ireland are "booming" while the CBI has warned the region is on the "brink of recessionary territory".

Speaking primarily to an audience in Britain on yesterday morning's Today programme on BBC Radio 4, the Staffordshire Moorlands MP was upbeat about the north's economic prospects, despite one of its leading business organisations warning of uncertain times ahead.

The Northern Ireland Composite Economic Index (NICEI), published on Thursday, estimated economic activity fell by 0.3 per cent between the end of 2017 and the first three months of this year.

The economy also shrank by 1 per cent compared to the same period in 2017 and remains behind the UK as a whole, which grew by 1.2 per cent over the year.

CBI (NI) director Angela McGowan said the figures were "a stark warning for the Northern Irish economy".

But according to Mrs Bradley, Northern Ireland is "on the up".

"We have the lowest unemployment we've ever seen in Northern Ireland," she said.

"We have businesses booming, we have tourism is booming – this is a place that is on the up."

Despite requests from The Irish News, the Northern Ireland Office declined to offer evidence to support Mrs Bradley's assertion.

SDLP business spokesman Pat Catney said the NICEI figures were "extremely worrying".

"To add to this worry is the direct contradiction by the Secretary of State Karen Bradley who said that Northern Ireland business is 'booming'," the Lagan Valley MLA said.

"Such narratives that distort the reality are unhelpful to the business community here in the north who are rightly concerned about a no-deal Brexit that will see us crash out of the EU, causing much damage to the sector here."

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