Mon 25th Nov 2019
SDLP leader outlines plans for business at NI Chamber’s 5 Leaders; 5 Days event
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has outlined his plans for jobs and the economy at the first of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s 5 Leaders; 5 Days events. The series is designed to give businesses an opportunity to inform the debate ahead of Election Day on 12 December.
Addressing an audience of local business people in Ulster Bank’s Belfast headquarters, Mr Eastwood said:
“When I last addressed business leaders ahead of a Westminster election, I laid down a very serious challenge to everyone present to raise their voice in the Brexit debate. At that time, it was very clear to me that our agri-food sector, our manufacturing industry and local exporters were not being heard. It’s a challenge that they have risen to and exceeded. No one can say that local business has remained silent on the threats we face. But the uncomfortable reality is that while business has found its voice, too many politicians have closed their ears. It’s time we started listening again, it’s time we restored devolution and brought an end to years of needless, damaging uncertainty.
“I want to see an inclusive, power sharing government in Stormont supporting our agri-food and manufacturing industries, tackling the stark regional imbalance that exists in the North and providing opportunity for our young people. I want to see MPs elected to Westminster who will work on city and growth deals to supercharge our economy. I want Northern Ireland to be a fairer, thriving place, where everyone can have a good quality of life. That requires an Executive here and MPs prepared to back business at Westminster.”
Speaking at the event, John Healy, President, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry added:
“NI Chamber is hosting its 5 Leaders; 5 Days series of events over the coming weeks to give business people the opportunity to engage directly with party leaders, analysing their policy positions and providing the real-world business perspective on their manifestos.
“At NI Chamber, we too are challenging our political leaders and ahead of the General Election, have published ‘five asks’ from those who seek to represent the interests of local businesses.
“First and foremost, our local politicians must prioritise the restoration of an Executive at Stormont so that key local business decisions can be made.
“They must also ensure that Northern Ireland is not disadvantaged competitively by any decisions made at Westminster, and introduce a wider moratorium on measures that increase business costs.
“In terms of Brexit, is incumbent upon our politicians to agree a deal before leaving the European Union that secures a positive UK/EU trading relationship and avoids a hard border with the Republic of Ireland. Our politicians need to support firms with Brexit planning by closing remaining information gaps for all Brexit scenarios and introducing a temporary SME Brexit tax credit to support businesses that need to undertake specific activity to adjust to changes in trading conditions.
“Finally, we want to see the introduction of a simple, fast, flexible and affordable immigration system that minimises the administrative burden on businesses. Any future system must allow access within the immigration system to all skill levels – including temporary, seasonal and permanent roles – with recognition of professional qualifications.”
The 5 Leaders; 5 Days series continues with Michelle O’Neill, who will speak on 26 November. Alliance’s Naomi Long is set to address businesses on 2 December, while UUP’s Steve Aiken will speak on 3 December. DUP Party Leader Arlene Foster will conclude the series on 6 December.