Saturday, 19 Sep 2020

PM vows to build ‘stronger than ever’ economy ahead of Northern Ireland visit

The prime minister has vowed to rebuild a “stronger than ever” economy and highlighted the need for co-operation between central and devolved government.

Ahead of a visit to Northern Ireland, Boris Johnson acknowledged the close working relationship between Westminster and the power-sharing administration at Stormont.

He will meet first minister Arlene Foster and deputy first minister Michelle O’Neill and hold his first face-to-face talks with the new Irish premier, Micheal Martin.

Number 10 said the Treasury had protected 316,000 jobs in Northern Ireland, granted thousands of business loans and provided the power-sharing Executive with an additional £2.2bn to fund its COVID-19 response.

Westminster and Stormont jointly funded a £5.7m support package for Belfast City Airport and Derry City Airport, safeguarding air connectivity between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Highlighting the UK-wide PPE strategy, the prime minister’s office revealed that Northern Ireland had received 4.7 million pieces of PPE and provided 250,000 medical-grade gowns to England in return.

The prime minister said: “As the country begins to get back on its feet in the wake of coronavirus, we cannot simply strive to rebuild but we must commit to building back stronger than ever.

“I cannot overstate how important it is that the close co-operation that we have seen between central and devolved government will continue to be to this.

“Together, we will make sure Northern Ireland to ready to take full advantage of the many opportunities that lie ahead and that no part of Northern Ireland is left behind.”

During his visit to Belfast, Mr Johnson will announce plans to establish a Northern Ireland Centenary Forum and Northern Ireland Centenary Historical Advisory Panel to prepare for 2021.

He said: “As we mark 100 years since the creation of Northern Ireland, it is important that we celebrate its people, culture and enterprise.

“It is a truly special place and we must use the centenary to promote Northern Ireland on the world stage.”

His talks with Taoiseach Micheal Martin are expected to focus on the shared fight against coronavirus, the economy and the UK’s negotiations with the EU.

Boris Johnson last visited Northern Ireland in January following an agreement to restore the power-sharing government three years after it had collapsed.

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