At the autumn Budget, the Chancellor announced £350 million for a Belfast city region deal to boost investment and productivity, and the opening of formal negotiations for a Derry/Londonderry and Strabane city region deal. Furthermore, late last year, I was delighted to announce a £700,000 investment in Randox, a County Antrim life sciences company. That investment, through the Government’s industrial strategy, should help create well-paid manufacturing jobs in Northern Ireland.
Government Members are starting to feel more and more like honorary Ulstermen. Will the Minister commit to increasing and expanding the city deal to other cities in Northern Ireland to help that integral part of the United Kingdom?
I can confirm, as I have already mentioned, that the Derry/Londonderry and Strabane city deal discussions have begun, following my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s announcement, and I am sure that everybody here hopes they will progress speedily and successfully.
We know that the business community in Northern Ireland does not want a hard border, so surely, if technology and connected promises do not avoid that, the backstop is an understandable insurance policy for Dublin and the European Union, as indeed the United Kingdom agreed in December 2017. Surely the Government will not be reneging on that promise, which is beneficial to business.
I keep coming back to it, but Parliament voted last night and a democratic consensus has been reached. We all need to respect that decision.