Trade NI to lead north's 'largest ever trade mission to Westminster'

Trade NI's Glyn Roberts, Stephen Kelly and Colin Neill will lead a major business delegation to Westminster on Tuesday.
Trade NI's Glyn Roberts, Stephen Kelly and Colin Neill will lead a major business delegation to Westminster on Tuesday.

A NEW prospectus aimed at driving economic growth in the north will be presented to hundreds of business leaders, diplomats and MPs at Westminster on Tuesday.

Trade NI, an alliance of three of the north’s largest trade bodies – Hospitality Ulster, Manufacturing Northern Ireland, and Retail Northern Ireland – have described the document as a blueprint for economic growth and prosperity over the next 10 years.

Produced by BDO, it examines how local industries, businesses, and high streets have been boosted by peace, prosperity, and greater stability in the 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement.

The trade bodies said 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 recommendations largely focus on people and skills; public sector reform; tax cuts; and capitalising on dual-market access.

Trade NI is calling for the ‘creation of pathways’ to ensure businesses can access workers, an increase in university places, granting businesses access to Apprenticeship Levy money, and the establishment of Northern Ireland as a pilot area for a ‘Skills Tax Credit’ scheme.

The business alliance also said the north’s historic dependency on the public sector needs to be reversed, and called on the UK Government to commit to extending ‘economic levers’ introduced for things like decarbonisation and childcare to the extended to the north.

Longstanding calls for the abolishment of Air Passenger Duty and cuts to VAT for hospitality and tourism are also on the agenda.

Trade NI is also backing an overhaul of the planning process.

In a joint statement, the three heads of the business groups, Glyn Roberts (Retail NI), Colin Neill (Hospitality Ulster) and Stephen Kelly (Manufacturing NI) said while the report reflects how far the north has come since 1998, its recommendations are about opening a path to greater economic success in the future.

“We want Northern Ireland to be the very best place in the UK to locate, start and scale up a business,” state the business leaders.

“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.”