Newry Chamber hosted the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris MP, on his first official visit to Newry. The meeting took place at the offices of AbbeyAutoline on Wednesday 16th November. It was attended by Chamber Board members and some leading local employers.
Julie Gibbons, President of Newry Chamber commented:
“We want to thank the Secretary for State for engaging with us. We had a wide-ranging discussion around the priorities and opportunities for organisations operating in the Greater Newry Area. Despite the obvious challenges of no local Assembly sitting at Stormont, rapid inflation in particular energy costs, ongoing Protocol discussions and a labour shortage, there is still optimism and ambition amongst our members.”
“We highlighted that we represent an internationally focused region, with significant assets including a strategic location on the eastern economic corridor and a strong multi-sectorial base. Newry’s strength is its entrepreneurial spirit which has been at the heart of economic growth.”
“Small local businesses have been developed into global businesses – FD Technologies, Norbrook Laboratories, MJM Marine, Re-Gen Waste, DELI LITES Ireland and STATSports to name just a few. We have also seen business start-ups double during the pandemic.”
“We stressed that the Newry City Region has been transformed as a result of peace on this island. Our prosperity is based on the ability to freely trade North/South, East/West and globally. For us, the Protocol is the means by which we could maintain our ability to trade. While parts of it will require some practical adaptations, many of our members have already been successful in making the Protocol work for them.”
“We want the Protocol issue resolved because of the political instability it has caused. We welcome the positive discussions now taking place between the UK and the EU. Hopefully, this will lead to a workable solution and will provide the framework for the restoration of the Executive.”
“A more concerning out working of Brexit is the acute shortage of skilled workers. Many EU nationals have left and cannot be replaced. This issue is restricting the growth potential of our members and puts us at a significant competitive disadvantage versus businesses over the border.”
“Members also raised issues on corporation tax, rates, energy costs and infrastructure/city deal projects. We do hope to continue our engagement with the Secretary of State in the future.”
Chris Heaton-Harris MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland commented:
“I’ve had productive conversations with Newry Chamber today on the issues of importance to them. The UK Government is committed to making NI a better place to live, work, invest and do business, and it is clear that there is plenty of opportunity here.”
The Secretary of State added:
“I heard about the problems that local businesses are having as a result of the Protocol and rising energy costs. I reiterated that the UK Government is engaging in constructive dialogue with the EU to find solutions to the problems the Protocol is causing, and our legislation aims to fix the practical problems it has created, and that we have stepped in as quickly as possible to provide energy support for businesses, public and voluntary sector organisations in Northern Ireland.”
Newry Chamber members hold meeting with The Secretary of State for NI, Chris Heaton-Harris MP on the NI Protocol as well as the wider economic challenges and opportunities.