The announcement of a £200 million beverage can plant in Belfast by Ardagh Metal Packaging marks a clear endorsement of the benefits of the dual market access available to Northern Ireland under the Protocol, SDLP Brexit and Economy spokesperson Matthew O’Toole has said.
The company made clear that the investment was based on having a manufacturing base in Belfast that could serve customers in “Ireland, the UK and Europe” – a unique position that exists only because the Protocol gives the North seamless access to both UK and EU markets.
The news comes at the end of the week in which data from the Irish Central Statistics Office highlighted the large increase in Northern Ireland exports to the Republic, while the claim that the Protocol has added costs to NI consumers was refuted by data from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research in London which estimated that inflation in the North is the lowest of all UK regions.
The South Belfast MLA said the hugely significant investment from Ardagh in Belfast, coupled with other positive indicators and recent polling data showing growing public consensus for making Protocol arrangements work, underlined the need for the UK Government to drop its destructive threats to trigger Article 16 and commit to making the Protocol work.
Matthew O’Toole MLA said:
“Despite the hysteria and distortion from the UK Government and elements of unionism, the clear economic benefits of the Protocol are being seen. Ardagh’s announcement is one of the most significant manufacturing commitments to Belfast in many years – and it is clear that the unique access to both UK and European markets was part of the appeal.
“This comes after data showing the huge increase in north-south trade to the benefit of the northern economy. Meanwhile, inflation here remains lower than in Britain. The Protocol was no one’s first choice, and we all want to see easements on the movement of goods from Britain. But the distortion and hysteria cannot mask the economic advantage we now have.
“If the UK Government’s intransigence and Brexit ideology costs Northern Ireland economic advantage and potential jobs, it will be unforgivable. They should quickly get on with agreement with the EU on making our arrangements work to everyone’s advantage.”