A powerful Northern Ireland trade body has taken its message to Westminster to set out its key policy priorities for the next UK Government.

Trade NI – which is an alliance of Retail NI, Manufacturing NI and Hospitality Ulster – formerly launched its ‘Northern Ireland Building for Success’ report at a reception on Wednesday afternoon at the House of Commons, attended by government ministers, senior shadow cabinet ministers, ambassadors, and Northern Irish business leaders.

The report sets out the trade body’s shared ambition for Northern Ireland to be the best place in the UK and Ireland to locate, start and scale up a business.

It follows up a number of events which have taken place over the last year in Belfast, Dublin, London and Washington DC, hammering home Trade NI’s shared message to a range of key stakeholders

The ‘Building for Success’ blueprint, produced by accountancy and business advisory consultancy BDO, identifies key strengths and areas of potential within the Northern Irish economy, and some of its main recommendations include:

  • Apprenticeship levy refunded to those who pay it
  • Creating a Northern Ireland High Street Renewal Fund
  • Veterinary Agreement negotiated with the EU to ease pressures with the Irish Sea Border and a ‘Trusted Destination’ for Northern Ireland
  • A lower rate of VAT for hospitality, leisure, and tourism
  • Introduction of a reciprocal UK/EU five year working visa that allows the best talent to flow between both regions and overcomes labour mobility challenges.
  • Appoint UK and EU special envoys for economic affairs, similar to the US.

In a joint statement ahead of the Westminster reception, Trade NI’s three lead chief executives Glyn Roberts (Retail NI), Colin Neill (Hospitality Ulster) and Stephen Kelly (Manufacturing NI) said: “This is an ambitious policy agenda for the next UK Government on improving the Windsor Framework, better Levelling Up, reducing taxation and increasing the number of university places in Northern Ireland.”

They add: “A year on from our last Westminster reception, we have had political stability and a restored Executive, which means we now have ministers and elected representatives to help us build on the success of these sectors and revitalise our local economy.

“This event has been about reminding key political influencers and business leaders of the economic priorities needed for Northern Ireland and why it is a great place to locate or start a business.

“It has been so encouraging to see so many people from across the globe attend this event. It’s evidence that there is interest in Northern Ireland and a sense of optimism about our shared future.”

Wednesday’s Westminster reception, sponsored by DWF, Titanic Quarter and Ulster University and hosted by North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, was attended by over 200 guests, including deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly, junior minister Aisling Reilly and Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris.

Representatives from Trade NI also attended a Speaker’s House reception with Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP and an evening reception at the Irish Embassy.

Speaking ahead of the event, Chris Heaton-Harris said: “The UK Government is firmly committed to fostering economic growth in Northern Ireland. We are dedicated to attracting international investment and ensuring that local businesses have the support they need to establish themselves and scale up to become global enterprises.”

Julie Galbraith, executive partner at DWF Law, added: “We are pleased to be supporting Trade NI again this year as they advocate for these vital industries at this high level. We are proud to be involved in encouraging key decision makers to harness the opportunities in front of them for investment and economic prosperity in Northern Ireland.”

James Eyre, chief executive at Titanic Quarter, said: “A prosperous private sector is essential to ensure a strong future for Northern Ireland. Titanic Quarter continues to play its part with £640m of investment to date, £180m of construction on site and an ambition to have delivered £2bn investment by 2035.

“Titanic Quarter is already home to 100 local and multi-national companies and supports 12,200 direct, indirect and induced jobs for the city. We are backing Trade NI as they demonstrate why our private sector needs continued support from Westminster.”

Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Provost, Ulster University, said: “Ulster University is pleased to be supporting Trade NI, a great example of effective collaboration and leadership, and who are doing excellent work in championing local businesses in Northern Ireland.

“There is so much good that we can build upon in Northern Ireland, and we’re delighted to be here today to play a part in influencing key decision and policy makers to recognise this special place, in line with our strategy of People, Place and Partnership.”

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