SDLP sets out plan to maximise inward investment

Northern Ireland needs an urgent strategy to maximise the investment and broader economic potential offered by the dual market access available under the Ireland Protocol, in addition to addressing east-west trade issues, the SDLP has said as it sets out ideas to capitalise on the position the region now finds itself.

SDLP Brexit spokesperson Matthew O’Toole and Economy spokesperson Sinead McLaughlin have written to Northern Ireland’s First Ministers and Economy minister, calling for Invest NI to be mandated to urgently develop an investment and economic development strategy based on NI’s unique position on the continent – unfettered access for goods moving into both the British and EU markets.

While this effort will need to be married with the necessity of mitigating the damage done to supply chains – especially across the Irish Sea – now is the time to plan for capitalising on the competitive advantage of being a gateway to two markets.

Among the potential areas for investment and economic development for the region include:

- Highly regulated manufacturing – such as life science - where both EU and UK based companies require less burdensome access to each other’s markets than provided for in the main Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

- Green and low carbon technology – with both the UK and EU pledging to prioritise low carbon transition over the next decade, Northern Ireland should seek to participate in both EU and UK agendas and associated economic opportunities, including through the European Green Deal and marketing opportunities offered by COP26 in Glasgow.

- Access to EU trade deals – critical to maximising the advantages of our dual market access will be securing access for NI based manufacturers and food producers to existing EU trade deals with third parties.

- New all-Ireland and NI-EU food supply chains – notwithstanding disruptions on east to west movements, there could be new opportunities for NI manufacturers and food producers to replace GB-based producers in the broader EU market.

Matthew O’Toole said:

“Brexit has predictably caused unwanted disruption to trade, not only east-west but also creating north-south divergence for major parts of our economy 

Critical to the success of such a strategy will be partnership with other agencies across Ireland, Britain and the continent – so the SDLP has also written to Intertrade Ireland, IDA Ireland, both the Irish and UK Governments, and the European Commission to highlight the importance of maximising awareness of NI’s unique position as the gateway to two markets.

such as financial services. But Northern Ireland now finds itself with something it has lacked for generations: competitive advantage. We are the only part of this continent from which goods can move seamlessly into both UK and EU markets.

“Our Executive needs to take a calm and collective approach to working with the EU and UK Government to resolve outstanding issues. People who talk recklessly about ditching the Protocol entirely need to be honest about the fact that they are advocating throwing away a unique competitive advantage our economy now has. As well as dealing with the short term disruption to our trade, now is the time to capitalise on the long term potential for investment and economic development. The SDLP is pressing Government and agencies in Belfast, Dublin, London and Brussels to make sure we take advantage of these opportunities. The first step is Invest NI coming up with dedicated strategy, then working with IDA Ireland, InterTrade Ireland, the UK Department of Trade and the EU to maximise our potential.”

Sinead McLaughlin added:

"Our geography and geology provide the opportunity for the North to claim a position of international leadership in the exploitation of renewable energy, including wind, geothermal and tidal. And our universities, backed by the City Deals, are in the forefront of developing life sciences. We have the chance to knit together our leadership in these sectors with our presence in the two markets of the EU and the UK to create substantial numbers of new jobs, by attracting inward investors and supporting local enterprise. It is essential that our political leaders, Invest NI and other agencies seize the moment for the benefit of the whole of our society."

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