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US shows ‘enormous goodwill’ to NI business

Northern Ireland businesses can continue to rely on the “enormous goodwill” of the US, says Londonderry Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer McKeever.

Speaking after her weekend visit to Washington - where she attended the White House St Patrick’s Day reception - Ms McKeever said it was very positive to be reassured that “the door is always open” for local businesses.

She said: “There continues to be enormous goodwill shown towards Ireland, North and South. It’s extremely positive to hear that the door is always open for us to do business in the US.

“It was a very positive visit for our delegation. There were some very encouraging conversations in relation to investment in Northern Ireland, particularly in tourism.”

However, she warned that Northern Ireland should not rely on the goodwill of the US to help break political deadlock at Stormont as it has in the past.

“It is up to our politicians to show the leadership needed to restore power sharing and give us a local voice as we face the huge challenges of Brexit.”

Ms McKeever said many in Washington shared the “concerns” for Northern Ireland over Brexit.

“Brexit and our lack of political leadership in Northern Ireland are leaving us in the slow lane. These feelings were shared by those we met in Washington.

Ms McKeever attended several Washington meetings in the company of Ellvena Graham, President of the NI Chamber of Commerce and Industry and CBI NI chairman Trevor Lockhart.

“We were clear in explaining that the only way we can foresee a positive outcome is by staying in both the Customs Union and the Single Market. During a meeting with the Department of State, officials said they had not seen any data to indicate we would be better off after Brexit. They also said there is little evidence to suggest we would be better off with a Free Trade Agreement with the USA, and that it would take years to build.”