Business ‘cornerstone of the economy’, says Chancellor Hammond
NORTHERN Ireland businesspeople have welcomed a speech by Chancellor Philip Hammond at the Conservative Party Conference in which he described business as “the cornerstone of the economy”.
But the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry also said the Chancellor needed to go further to promote business in his Budget later this month — which they said was “an opportunity to deliver bold action to boost investment and confidence”.
And Glyn Roberts, the chief executive of Retail NI — who is attending the conference at Birmingham, including a breakfast reception hosted by the DUP today — said he had used meetings at the event to press home a message that Northern Ireland is “open for business”.
“Despite the fact that we have no devolved government it is important that we are here to press home the wider point that Northern Ireland can be the best place in the UK to shop, live, socialise and start a business,” he said.
The Northern Ireland branch of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is also attending the event from today. Roger Pollen, head of external affairs, said: “We have a strong FSB NI team at the Conservative Party conference this week, with a busy schedule of engagements in the diary.
“Crucially we will be seeking to discuss our idea of making Northern Ireland an ‘enhanced economic zone’ with key UK Government figures.
“This proposal, if implemented, would have a transformative impact on the NI economy and unlock a point of gridlock in the Brexit negotiations.”
NI Chamber chief executive Ann Mcgregor urged the Chancellor to “pull out all the stops to get businesses investing and growing” following his speech.
She said the Government needed to improve the areas which were within its control, including skills, training and infrastructure, calling for the go-ahead for city deals for Belfast and Londonderry — a measure regarded as a catalyst for regeneration.
“In terms of Northern Ireland specifically, a green light on city deals for Belfast and Londonderry would be an example of an action that the Chancellor should take in his upcoming Budget,” she added.
“Businesses also require incentives for investment and we urge the Chancellor to consider an increase in investment allowances as a matter of priority.”
During his speech, Philip Hammond has predicted a “deal dividend” which could fund tax cuts and public service spending once a Brexit deal is reached.
Mr Hammond’s forecast came as he called on Conservatives to stand “four-square” behind Theresa May as she enters the final weeks of negotiations ahead of a hoped-for deal in November.
Stephen Kelly, the chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said the Government needed to repair its relationship with business due to the lack of progress over Brexit negotiations.
“Ultimately the government needs business to deliver Brexit for it and there’s no doubt that Brexit and the way that the government has handled talks has damaged relationships between business and politicians,” he said.
Speech praise: Philip Hammond