Public Affairs Update

19th Jan 2023

December 2022 – January 2023

It was a busy end to 2022 and start of 2023 for the Policy and Public Affairs Team with the absence of devolved government and associated fiscal pressures dominating the headlines.

In December, the team held 21 political engagements with political parties and senior officials in Belfast, London, Dublin and Brussels. Despite the challenges throughout this time, we have been working on developing our three key pillars for better growth – “Regional and International Growth; a Sustainable Economy; and a Skilled and Inclusive Workforce”.

A Sustainable Economy:

  • With the approval of the NI Chamber Council, we have agreed that a key policy focus for this year will be a ’23 for ’30 campaign, focusing reforms and supports required in 2023 to unlock green growth to achieve the ambitious 2030 Climate Targets.
  • Ongoing engagements have continued with the Utility Regulator and BEIS on the current energy crisis supports, including the latest targeted energy support package.
  • With the support of the NI Chamber Infrastructure Committee, we responded to the Planning Validation Checklists Consultation with the Department of Infrastructure (in consultation with the NI Chamber Infrastructure Committee), confirming our support for the introduction of statutory validation checklists to improve the planning system.
  • In January, we also joined the Department of Economy’s Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan (Energy) Working Group and will be consulting shortly with the relevant members on action points arising from this group.

A Skilled and Inclusive Workforce 

  • The second part of the Future of Skills sub-series on ‘Building Inclusive Workplaces’ took place in January. This event focused on the barriers that people with disabilities and childcare responsibilities face to get back into work and entering the workplace. Speakers from Disability Action NI and Employers for Childcare shared how businesses can become more accessible, approaches that are required to make work flexible for these groups and what further development in infrastructure is required to unlock the valuable skills these people can provide to the economy.
  • Phil Murray, Public Affairs Manager, will attend the NI Assembly All-Party Working Group on Childcare later this month.

International and Regional Competitiveness

  • In December we published an International Trade Survey, in partnership with Invest NI, which received widespread media and government attention in respect of members’ ambitions to export, barriers to trade and views on the NI Protocol.
  • A Public Affairs Forum in partnership with Phoenix Natural Gas took place on 13 December with special guest Paul Narain, US Consul General. Topics discussed included the US outlook on NI as well as ensuring 2023 and the 25th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement are used to drive and deepen trade links between the US and NI.
  • As part of the NI Business Brexit Working Group, Stuart Anderson, Head of Public Affairs, has been continually engaging with the EU and UK negotiation teams as discussions progress on the Protocol. Last week he chaired a number of high-profile business engagements with the Leader of the Opposition in the UK, Sir Keir Starmer MP and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD.