Northern Ireland’s business community has united as never before to make sure it is heard and the consequences of crashing out of the EU next March are understood.

Stephen Kelly is the Chief Executive of Manufacturing NI, he writes for Slugger about why the Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union should be supported. A community has found it voice. Reluctant, yet determined, Northern Ireland’s business community has united as never before, to make sure is heard, and that the consequences of crashing out of the EU next March are understood. Some may have been frustrated that Northern Ireland’s businesses and their representatives have been too quiet, but we … Read more

Half of NI firms postponed or cancelled investment plans due to Brexit…

A survey by AIB bank shows that half of NI firms postponed or cancelled investment plans due to Brexit. As a business person myself I know in uncertain times you keep your money in your pocket to see how the future will pan out. You put off taking on new staff, you hold off on opening new premises, you don’t buy new equipment etc. But really caution does not just apply to business people but to any sensible consumer which is why we … Read more

How the Northern Ireland Government is destroying its own cities and towns…

House of Fraser, with the announcement last week that it is to close 31 Stores across the UK, is just the latest in a long line of retailers which have either gone to the wall, or are scaling back their high street retail operations through store closures. Business rates are effectively a trading tax which businesses have to pay to have a high street presence, which in the era of online retail, puts bricks and sticks retailers at a tremendous … Read more

Another curious Brexit side effect. Companies may get grants to move jobs out of the UK…

Nestlé has announced that they are to axe 300 UK jobs and move Blue Riband biscuit production to Poland. More than likely this is about cost saving and has nothing to do with Brexit but it does introduce some interesting questions. Under EU rules member countries are not allowed to give subsidies that encourage companies to move jobs from one member state to another. So in the Nestlé example, Poland could not give grants to  Nestlé. You can only grant … Read more

Why are [some] Irish politicians so reluctant to take Vestager’s €13 Billion and run?

So today should be interesting in Dublin. It should be a make your mind up day for the Irish Cabinet to decide on whether Ireland should, as a member state, challenge Tuesday’s ruling of European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager. It could fall in several ways. It may force the government to assemble a water tight argument on the politically embarrassing tax justice issues involved in launching an appeal, or perhaps defer the pain by looking to the court to seek clarification … Read more

We can already see a post-Brexit economy emerging. It’s grim.

Here’s a confusing financial press headline from today: German 10-year sovereign bond yields turn negative for first time. What does that mean in plain English: it means traders are so worried about what the UK economy would look like post-Brexit, they’re pulling their money out of the UK, and actually paying the German government to let them lend it money. Read that sentence again to realise how deep the fear is. You’ve heard the scaremongering. This is what the reality … Read more

Alternative Ulster; Rebuilding Northern Ireland’s Economy. Feedback from Coworking Europe 2015, Milan, Italy

Many of you who know me will be well aware of the frustrations I have encountered on my return to Northern Ireland, observing the Assembly being constantly distracted by legacy issues and failing to deliver a business strategy that will help our economy grow and bring economic prosperity for future generations. The Northern Ireland Assembly has prioritised 12.5% Corporation Tax as its main fiscal lever to kick start (in three years time) private sector growth in the Northern Ireland economy. … Read more

How local startup 24Tees used crowdfunding to get their business off the ground…

Two months back, myself and another student at Ulster University launched a crowdfunding campaign, successfully raising £6000 to get our business off the ground. Since then we’ve launched the business in full and are seeing it grow every day. It’s given us more than a few sleepless nights from its conception to now, but it’s undoubtedly been a great learning experience. My friend-turned business partner originally had the idea back in November of last year. He subscribed to a popular … Read more

Forget Corporation Tax. Our high business rates are putting local shops out of business and killing our town centres…

Many of you may remember this famous 1980 Queen Hit, a song about dying in a gunfight, but in 2015 could be equally interpreted as a commentary on the death of retail and commercial businesses located in all the Town and City Centres of Northern Ireland. Many commentators have given their opinions as to the demise of the traditional high street and suggested that it is due to changes in shopping habits, the growth of the internet, the growth of … Read more

The Boal Car Parking Dispute with Belfast City Airport Sums up what is so wrong with the NI Economy

Belfast City Airport frontage

Only in Northern Ireland could a situation be allowed to arise where a private car park operator using a purpose built multi story car park, to run a car parking business is found to be in breach of planning law and is to be shut down because it is the ‘wrong type’ of car parking. Most ‘normal’ people in Northern Ireland think this decision is unfair, lacking in common sense, illogical, and goes against consumer interests. Northern Ireland is part … Read more

Farewell to “Backwards Belfast”

According to Belfast Telegraph, local restaurateur Emma Bricknell is, apparently, leaving us for good. It’s not her, it’s us. We are ‘a laughing stock‘. We are ‘backwards’. She has found somewhere else, somewhere sunnier. Apparently the break up is long overdue. Bricknell is the owner of three city centre restaurants, two branches of Made in Belfast and Le Coop on Hill Street. I have been to Made in Belfast exactly twice. Personally I was not a fan. Neither was Joris … Read more

I don’t rate business rates

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a business in possession of a premises must be in want of customers and an extra few bills to pay. Every property in the land pays rates of some description, which is fair enough because there are a lot of things to pay for! Except…we still have to pay for lots of other things that the average household gets included in their lot. I can’ t necessarily speak for industries other than my … Read more

Importance of Dissent: “The fool’s role is to speak truth to power…”

Interview with Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, of the Smurfitt Business School at UCD. He identifies three things to learn from the crisis: articulating the relationship between business and the wider society it operates within; Ireland’s overdependence on retail and construction and the need to build a more export led economy; and third the importance of dissent. Professor Ó hÓgartaigh’s presentation on the role of dissent is, at base, about understanding the utility of the fool within business… Here’s some of the … Read more

Just three per cent of businesses are registered in NI’s second city…

The Londonderry Sentinel has some fascinating figures released by the DFP minister Sammy Wilson: New figures detailing the number of registered businesses in each constituency show there were only 2,205 in Londonderry in January. Only West Belfast (1,430) and North Belfast (2,185) had fewer whilst East Londonderry (3,900) and West Tyrone (5,095) had roughly twice as many as the Foyle constituency. And it notes: It follows the revelation in March that over 800 business premises in Londonderry lie desolate. There … Read more

Big News. Innovation from the Executive

Good to see Northern Ireland featuring on the UK national news agenda with a report on the “Tesco tax.,” (Today programme 7.25, Sammy and retail consortium rep interview). Despite the national coverage, inexplicably I can’t find  news of  the 1st April vesting date for the business charge on the local BBC News website. Old news locally perhaps? But at least the story’s appearance is  a case of a good sell to the networks which more and more these days unilaterally exclude … Read more

UK business lending slashed in face of lowered growth prospects…

Paying down baby debt may have sounded like a good policy in opposition, but George Osborne’s intervention to try and get banks (those largely publicly funded institutions) to lend money in an economy that’s as close as Ireland to contracting again, is faltering… The Daily Mail reports lending to business is down by £10 Billion on last year… And Moody’s have put the UK on notice that its AAA rating is switched from positive to negative. They cite two primary … Read more

Why Sean Quinn (and many others) sued for bankcruptcy in Belfast…

Because he would have been crazy to settle in Dublin… The FT interviews a guy who runs a service for Irish people looking for a humane bankcrupcy regime… …in Ireland, unlike in many western countries, bankruptcy is not an option for most people. Just 29 people were declared bankrupt last year and 17 in 2009. This compares to 135,089 bankruptcies in England and Wales, 20,329 in Scotland and 2,323 in Northern Ireland in 2010. Adds: Oh, and the Dublin court … Read more

Family ownership hindered News Corps’ ability to choose its own destiny, as a company

So James Murdoch is to be retained as head of BSkyB. If you missed Simon Jenkins on the matter on Newsnight last night, try Alison Smith in the FT this morning As for BSkyB, the case for refreshing the board is compelling and goes well beyond the position of James Murdoch, newly bolstered as chairman. It has been for a long time. The enduring thought that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp would buy the outstanding 60.9 per cent stake undoubtedly hindered … Read more