Stormont’s political impasse is hindering Northern Ireland’s ability to benefit from its post-Brexit economic advantage, Micheal Martin has warned. The Tanaiste was commenting as he hosted an event in Dublin for leading business figures from Northern Ireland The Trade NI umbrella group used the reception at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Iveagh House to launch a new report setting out a blueprint for driving growth here over the next 10 years.
Under the terms of Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol, companies in the region can sell freely within the UK internal market and also into the EU single market. However, the protocol also introduced economic barriers on the movement of goods being sold into Northern Ireland from Great Britain. That provision is deeply unpopular with unionists and the DUP has collapsed powersharing at Stormont in protest. The Windsor Framework struck by London and Brussels earlier this year sought to reduce the red tape on goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK while still maintaining the dual market access. The DUP has insisted the new accord does not go far enough to address its concerns around sovereignty and the application of EU law in Northern Ireland and the party is maintaining its blockade of Stormont until it receives further legal assurances from the UK Government. Addressing Thursday evening’s reception in Dublin, Mr Martin voiced support for the Windsor Framework, claiming it put Northern Ireland in a “unique economic position”. “The Irish Government is committed to helping Northern Ireland take full advantage of the opportunities arising from its access to both EU and UK markets,” he said. Mr Martin added: “With the Windsor Framework in place, we want to work together, North South, East West, and with our international partners, to promote Northern Ireland as an attractive place to invest and to do business. “However, ongoing political uncertainty makes this a significantly more challenging task. “Without local political leadership and the restoration of the Assembly, the Executive and the North South Ministerial Council, Northern Ireland cannot fully benefit from the opportunities in front of it. “Key decisions around prioritisation of resources and investment in key infrastructure like water and wastewater, transport, energy, are inevitably delayed; in turn holding up subsequent investment and development decisions. “These institutions need to be reinstated, without further delay.” Trade NI is an alliance of three of Northern Ireland’s largest trade bodies – Hospitality Ulster, Manufacturing Northern Ireland and Retail Northern Ireland. One of the key focuses of its report, titled Northern Ireland – The Prosperity Dividend, is increasing investment in the private sector to reduce the dependence on the public sector in the region, which at 27% is significantly above the UK average of 18%.
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