Thursday, 23 March 2017

How can Northern Ireland make the most of Brexit?

Previously, I argued that there are no longer any ‘leavers’ or ‘remainers’: just Brexit deniers and Brexit realists.  The UK will leave the EU and the government has outlined in reasonable detail its plan for the future.  Northern Ireland’s decision-makers, whether or not they comprise a devolved Executive, can either act as if they're still fighting the referendum campaign, or start to plan to make the best of our future after Brexit.

On behalf of the think-tank Global Britain, and local businesses including Sandelford Policy, David Hoey and I have written a report describing “An Agenda for Northern Ireland After Brexit”.  This sets out a framework to address some of the policy challenges presented locally by Brexit.

At The Dissenter, David sets out in detail why all levels of government in Northern Ireland should “stop talking and start doing”.  Many of our most pressing local issues are economic and many of the issues that we’ll face after Brexit are already long-standing problems.  The paper emphasises priorities that should already have been high on the Executive’s ‘to-do list’.
  • Committing to a restructured economy that favours a vibrant private sector rather than an unproductive public sector.
  • Tackling issues of uncompetitiveness.
  • Providing companies, particularly SMEs, with the support to grow profitably and to access new markets.
  • Fostering a culture of enterprise and entrepreneurship.
  • Offering low business taxes.
  • Encouraging effective research and development.
  • Improving efficiency in the agricultural sector.
  • Developing a positive strategy for fisheries.
Some aspects of policy need freshly examined, in light of new circumstances.  Should the Executive look at where its trade offices are situated, in preparation for Brexit?  How can Northern Ireland companies exploit any “trade push” by the UK government, after we leave the EU?  Can any restrictions on migrant labour actually provide an opportunity to tackle economic inactivity?
This report highlights some of the areas that should be discussed seriously, as part of Northern Ireland’s Brexit preparations.  It’s an attempt to open up a constructive debate, that doesn’t revolve around unachievable attempts to effectively make the referendum result go away.  
It’s happening.  Let’s try to approach Brexit positively and let's plan for Northern Ireland's future.  


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