Response to Industrial Strategy Green Paper
Manufacturing is the engine which drives the private sector in Northern Ireland. 1 in 4 families are directly or supported by the jobs and wages which the sector provides. Half of all investment and two thirds of private sector investment in R&D is delivered by the sector and its productivity levels are 38% higher than the Northern Ireland average with Advance Manufacturing contributing 27% more.
The bulk of Northern Ireland’s exports (c7bn) and a huge proportion of external sales to GB are from the sector which represents c14% of local GDP. This is significantly higher than the rest of the UK (at 10%) but far behind the EU target of 20% and even further adrift from Ireland who sit at 24% despite sharing the same island and challenges of geography.
We welcome the UK’s plan for a new Industrial Strategy and welcome many of the thoughts and principles which it outlines. We are however very unsure how this plan impacts on devolved nations (mentioned only 14 times in the document, with only 1 specific proposals) given many of the competencies are held by departments and administrations in Belfast, Edinburgh and Cardiff.
In general response, we believe the Green Paper needs to go further. Any new Industrial Strategy must:
1. Be more ambitious – we should be targeting growth in excess of an average 2% pa
2. Be more explicit in how the plan impacts on the devolved nations including its share of government spending.
3. Set targets, specifically to grow manufacturing to 20% of the economy
4. Pay more attention to the challenges of Brexit particularly on non-tariff barriers which will not be addressed by any new FTA with the EU
5. Commit to greater content from UK (and its Regions) suppliers in procurement and infrastructure projects (whether funded by Government or the consumer).
6. Set a course to become one of the most cost competitive economies in the world in areas such as energy, business tax and ease of starting, growing and doing business.
7. Ensure skills investment is significantly increased and that employers, regardless of where they are in the UK, have equal access to skills funding.
See below for Manufacturing Northern Ireland's full response.