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House of Commons Hansard
x
15 November 2017
Volume 631
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4. What steps the Government are taking to strengthen the Northern Ireland economy. [901695]

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This Government are committed to building an economy that works for everyone. The Government’s industrial strategy is a vital part of the plan to drive growth across the country. It will offer opportunities that strengthen productivity, support innovation and create jobs in Northern Ireland. Ultimately, though, the requirement for strong growth is political stability, so I say again that we seek a restored Executive.

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The UK Government have pledged to fund the EU’s PEACE IV and Interreg programmes up to 2020. Interreg already has strong third-party country participation, including with Norway, Greenland, Iceland and the Faroes in the Northern Periphery and Arctic programme. Will the UK seek third-country status after Brexit, or after 2020, given Northern Ireland’s strong involvement in Interreg, or are the Government working on a new programme to replace it after 2020?

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My hon. Friend raises an important point. I am more than happy to write to him with the detail but, in brief, the Government will guarantee funding for structural and investment fund projects until the point when we leave the EU. We have spoken specifically about the European Territorial Co-operation fund, of which PEACE and Interreg are a part. We have put more detail in our position paper on Ireland and Northern Ireland, and it is important to endeavour to see those funds continue.

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Does the Minister agree that too many people are concentrating on the potential threats that may emerge post-Brexit? What is she doing to try to promote businesses in Northern Ireland, which have a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of getting business in GB as well as the EU, strategically placed as they are in Northern Ireland?

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There are a few things to say about the hon. Gentleman’s important point. First, we ought to pay tribute to the businesses in Northern Ireland that have created so many thousands of jobs. More than 10,000 new jobs have been created in the past year alone, which is important progress. Secondly, this Government will never be neutral on the subject of the Union, and people will see our support for the trade that needs to go between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Thirdly, our exit from the European Union provides an additional opportunity for firms in Northern Ireland to trade around the globe, which is something to be seized.

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15. On that precise point, while trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland is important, it is far outstripped by trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Will the Minister confirm that this Conservative Government will do nothing that fractures the internal market of the United Kingdom? [901706]

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Yes, I certainly can. We are convinced of the need to go out and seek opportunities around the globe that will bring more jobs to Northern Ireland, and greater prosperity to both Northern Ireland and the whole United Kingdom, because we are stronger together.