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Leaving the EU: The Economy

Volume 638: debated on Wednesday 21 March 2018

4. What steps the Government are taking to identify opportunities to strengthen Northern Ireland’s economy as the UK leaves the EU. (904412)

I am not even going to try to follow that.

The Government are committed to building a stronger economy fit for the future right across the United Kingdom. That is clear from our industrial strategy and the Chancellor’s spring statement, where we continue to identify further opportunities for investment in Northern Ireland. Ultimately, however, a key requirement for stronger growth is political stability. That is why it is essential that a restored Executive are in place to take forward strategic decisions to deliver for Northern Ireland’s economy.

Tayto has operations not only in Corby, but in Northern Ireland, and it is very good news that in recent times the operation has expanded considerably. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that such UK-wide manufacturing industries continue to grow and prosper?

Tayto Group is the third largest snack manufacturer in the UK. It employs some 1,500 people right across the country—from Tandragee to Corby, and from Scunthorpe to Devon—and is one of the many success stories for growth. Through our industrial strategy, we are creating conditions in which successful businesses such as Tayto Group can thrive, helping them to invest in the future of our nation. We are shaping our business environment to take on the challenges and opportunities of new technologies and new ways of doing business, especially as we leave the EU, and to develop new trade relationships and expand our global trade networks.

The Institute of Export and International Trade says that if Northern Ireland is not in the single market or customs union, it will face 350 million new product codes. How many tens of thousands of administrators would Northern Ireland need to continue its current trade, let alone expand it?

I can rebut such pessimistic claims with actual fact. The employment figures that we will publish this morning say that there are 66,000 more jobs now than in 2010, with 15,000 of them created in the last year. Since 2010, we have 12,300 new businesses.

When the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, this House will no longer be prohibited from reducing the rate of corporation tax for Northern Ireland. If the institutions are not up and running by that time, would the Minister consider taking that step?

We very much hope that the devolved Assembly will be up and running, because it is for the Assembly to take the decision of reducing corporation tax. We are very committed to it doing that on the basis that it can show sustainable finances.

Despite the ongoing political situation, Northern Ireland has had a very positive business environment this year, particularly in relation to foreign direct investment. Will the Minister consider establishing a formal and regular business forum to include Invest NI and organisations and local businesses in Northern Ireland, to ensure that they can maximise opportunities that arise from the UK leaving the EU?

The hon. Lady makes a good point. I have just been assured by my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary that he would be happy to participate in such a venture.