Northern Ireland is open for business, James Brokenshire to tell US

James Brokenshire
James Brokenshire

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is to make his first official visit to the United States this week.

The recently appointed minister will be in Washington for a series of meetings with Obama administration officials and business leaders over the next two days.

Topping the agenda will be Brexit, business issues and implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.

Mr Brokenshire is expected to stress that Northern Ireland is open for business.

Speaking ahead of the whistle-stop visit, He said: “My overriding message to Washington is Northern Ireland is open for business and we will make the most of the opportunities ahead.

“The UK has voted to leave the European Union and we are determined to build on our strengths as an open, dynamic, trading nation to forge a new global role.

“The enduring friendship and close economic ties between the United Kingdom and the United States is a solid platform for Northern Ireland firms wanting to do business here.

“Exports from Northern Ireland to the US were up by 73.9% in the last year to £1.5 billion. Imports from the US are also up by 3.9%.

“This is good news and I will be doing everything possible, along with Executive Ministers, to see this trend continue, working to ensure the political stability that will lead to an even brighter future for Northern Ireland.”

The majority of people in Northern Ireland, 56%, voted to remain within the European Union in the June referendum.

Of the five main political parties at Stormont, only the Democratic Unionists backed a Brexit and in the wake of the shock result, separate legal challenges have been lodged at Belfast’s High Court by the father of a loyalist paramilitary murder victim and a cross-party group of MLAs.

On Thursday, Mr Brokenshire is expected to hold round-table discussions with US business leaders to press the case for inward investment.

The Secretary will also update policy makers on the Government’s priorities in Northern Ireland and outline the progress made on a range of issues including welfare reform, civil service restructuring and the establishment of an independent panel on tackling paramilitary activity since last November’s historic agreement was signed.

The continuing efforts to deal with intractable legacy issues will also be discussed.