Orkney and Shetland Liberal Democrat MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today highlighted the concerns of businesses in Northern Ireland which are considering relocating jobs to the Republic of Ireland in light of uncertainty over the future trading relationship with the EU. Mr Carmichael noted the comments from former minister Julian Smith, who said he had been contacted by firms considering moving jobs across the border.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“May I bring to the attention of the Minister the words of the former Secretary of State, who said recently that businesses in Northern Ireland were telling him that because of the uncertainties they faced they were considering shifting jobs into the Republic of Ireland? Will he not listen to the warnings of a very highly respected former Secretary of State and actually start engaging with businesses instead of just disregarding them?”
Responding for the government, the Minister of State, Robin Walker MP said:
“There is no need for Northern Ireland businesses to move elsewhere to trade with the UK. The Government will provide unfettered access for Northern Ireland businesses to the UK market. Working together with the Executive, we can provide strong conditions for recovery that will make Northern Ireland an excellent place to invest.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“This is some Olympic-class complacency from the minister. Without engaging with these risks we cannot mitigate them. The fact that businesses in Northern Ireland are approaching a former minister about their concerns suggests that they are not getting a proper hearing from government.
“If businesses start relocating jobs to the Republic of Ireland then we risk a very serious hollowing out of industry in the North. The government must respond to this risk now."