Ulster Unionist MEP, Jim Nicholson, has met European Commissioner for Competition, Joaquin Almunia, alongside Diane Dodds MEP to highlight the detrimental implications current proposed guidelines from the Commission would have upon Northern Ireland’s ability to attract foreign direct investment.
Mr Nicholson said: “It is widely recognised that the ability of Northern Ireland to give regional aid to businesses is essential to trap foreign direct investment which create jobs and also help local companies expand, particularly in these difficult economic times.
Currently regional aid can be given by the Northern Ireland Executive to attract investment anywhere in Northern Ireland but under current Commission guidelines we would see the ability to give this assistance limited to only a number of small areas throughout Northern Ireland. This would result in Belfast being completely excluded and so entirely unable to attract any investment through government assistance of this nature.
It was with this in mind we requested an urgent meeting with the Commissioner to request that the Commission looks once more at these guidelines. We highlighted the particular economic and social circumstances that exist in Northern Ireland and have asked the Commission to allow Northern Ireland to be given the status of ‘automatic assisted area’ once more which would mean government assistance can be given to attract this form of investment anywhere across the Province.