At the CBI Northern Ireland Annual Dinner in Belfast, sponsored by Barclays and MCS Group, CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairbairn will say that modern Northern Ireland stands as a testament to those who negotiated peace over 20 years ago.
Carolyn will call on politicians to ensure power-sharing talks do not break down into further stalemate and deadlock. She will outline what is at stake for local business and communities and underline the need for politicians to work together to restore the Northern Ireland Executive.
Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, will say:
“The political impasse has left Northern Ireland without a functioning government for more than 860 days - the longest ever peacetime government deadlock.
“In boardrooms across the country, business leaders know all about differences of opinion and robust debate. Over questions about where to invest, who to hire and how to run a company. But for the most successful among them, stalemate simply is not an option. They have no choice but to reach consensus.
“I have just one message to those involved in power-sharing talks here in Belfast: Why not adopt the business approach? You bear a historic responsibility.
“Business is crying out for compromise because the cost of failure now would be so great. This money could help fix roads, eradicate waiting lists in Northern Irish hospitals or transform education in primary and secondary schools.
“Restoring power to Stormont is the only way to do achieve this. What was once pressing is now desperately urgent.”
On Brexit, Carolyn will say:
“With thousands of goods vehicles and people crossing the border each day, business has been clear. A hard border would be an economic wrecking ball for Northern Ireland.
“Facts must be at the heart of this debate. The CBI and many businesses in this room have given politicians the economic evidence they need. Like the fact that – by 2034 – the cost of a no-deal Brexit could be equivalent to over 10% of Northern Ireland’s economy. Then there is the cost of potential tariffs and the damage of no-deal Brexit for Northern Ireland’s many current strengths as a place to invest.
“In the 21 years since the Good Friday Agreement and the border barriers were removed, Northern Irish businesses have created thousands of extra jobs. Unemployment is at its lowest rate on record and Northern Irish goods exports have risen at an average of nearly 7% a year, year-on-year for two decades.
“Together businesses are this nation’s greatest source of jobs, prosperity and collaboration. It must be the business voice that shapes the policies that work for Northern Ireland’s people and its future prosperity.”
On levers for growth, Carolyn will say:
“Northern Ireland can achieve real, lasting growth with the right strategic investment. The new city deal for Derry/Londonderry and Strabane, on top of the £350 million Belfast City Deal, were hugely welcomed by business.
“But more powerful still would be to see this commitment matched by a restored power-sharing government and the private sector. A true partnership between government and business that could bring peace, prosperity and progress for the whole of Ireland. If we get this right, business has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to unlock the extraordinary potential of this island.”
Adrian Doran, Northern Ireland Head of Corporate Banking at Barclays, said:
“Never before has the need been so great, for the voice of Northern Ireland business to be heard. And it has been heard, very clearly, thanks to the determination of the CBI, working in partnership with leaders in retail, small business, manufacturing, and the many local companies who are the cornerstones of this economy.
“Despite the challenges highlighted by the CBI, business here has continued to thrive. Companies are to be applauded for their ambition, innovation and resilience. There is, however, still much more to be done if Northern Ireland is to fully achieve its undoubted potential.”