‘Northern Ireland could become for UK/EU what Hong Kong was for Asia’ – Gove

Investment Conference in Belfast Michael Gove, in his closing speech at an investment conference in Belfast, described the region as having a rich history, a vibrant present, and an exciting future. The conference hosted around 200 investors from across the globe, including the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific.

Positive Developments Several positive announcements have already been made at the conference, including professional services firm EY’s commitment to create 1,000 jobs over the next five years. The event was attended by distinguished guests, including the Princess Royal and various government ministers.

Cross-Party Presence Despite the Stormont Assembly remaining suspended, political leaders such as Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, and Alliance’s Naomi Long were in attendance.

Belfast’s Transformation Mr. Gove highlighted the transformation of Belfast in the last decade, emphasizing the city’s investment and leadership. He also drew parallels between Belfast and Berlin, noting their shared history of division and their current status as centers for tech innovation.

Unique Position for Northern Ireland Michael Gove emphasized Northern Ireland’s unique position with unfettered access to both the UK’s internal market and the EU’s single market. He suggested that this access could make Northern Ireland a hub similar to what Hong Kong is for Asia, benefiting both the UK and Europe.

Government’s Commitment The UK government officials present at the conference, including Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, reiterated their commitment to creating opportunities in Northern Ireland. They emphasized the region’s energy, creativity, and innovation.

Challenges and Hope for Political Progress While acknowledging recent challenges, the government officials expressed hope for political progress in Northern Ireland. They highlighted the importance of reconciliation and prosperity over division and noted that restoring stability and certainty would make Northern Ireland an attractive investment prospect.

Impact of Windsor Framework The Windsor Framework, designed to address trading issues arising from the Northern Ireland Protocol, was expected to have a positive impact on trade. The government officials expressed confidence in the tangible benefits it would bring to businesses and trade in Northern Ireland.

Investment Opportunities Despite the absence of a devolved government in Northern Ireland, the investment conference aimed to showcase the region’s potential and attract global investors. Industry-focused sessions covered advanced manufacturing, technology, financial and professional services, the green economy, and the life and health sciences sector. Nineteen local companies exhibited to global investors, presenting various investment opportunities.

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