Invest in NI to get single market access – Tory MP

Andrea Leadsom says the PM's Brexit deal is 'fantastic' for NI

Andrea Leadsom says the PM’s Brexit deal is ‘fantastic’ for NI

Companies in Great Britain that want access to the EU single market should invest in Northern Ireland, senior Tory MP Andrea Leadsom has said.

Northern Ireland firms will continue to be part of the single market under the Brexit deal struck with the EU by Rishi Sunak.

The PM says it will create “the world’s most exciting economic zone”.

Ms Leadsom, a leading Brexiteer, said it gives Northern Ireland a “unique opportunity for inward investment”.

But she acknowledged in an interview with BBC News that it would also lead to questions about why all UK companies should not be able to access the single market, as they were able to do before Brexit.

“Obviously the sort of rejoinder from someone who didn’t want to leave the EU is ‘well, we all used to have that’,” she told the BBC’s Damian Grammaticas.

“But the reality is Northern Ireland will be an integral and precious part of the UK, which is a free and sovereign independent nation, but it will also have access to the EU single market.”

‘Special position’

If businesses on the mainland wanted access to the single market they should “invest in Northern Ireland”, she said, adding that it would be “fantastic” for the region.

“It’ll be a win win for Northern Ireland and for GB businesses,” added the former business secretary.

On a visit to a Coca Cola factory in County Antrim, Mr Sunak said that if his deal, known as the Windsor framework, on new post-Brexit trading rules is implemented “Northern Ireland is in the unbelievably special position – unique position in the entire world, European continent – in having privileged access, not just to the UK home market, which is enormous, but also the European Union single market.

“Nobody else has that. No-one. Only you guys: only here, and that is the prize.”

Critics on social media were swift to point out that the entire UK had full access to the EU’s single market before Brexit.

SNP MP Angus MacNeil said: “Unbelievable. Scotland and everyone else had this before daft stupid idiotic Brexit.”

Pressed on the issue later, the prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “The British people made a decision in 2016 and we are seeing the benefits of that decision, whether that’s in the ability to change our environment laws, some of the tax elements the prime minister talked about just today, in fact.

“With regards to Northern Ireland, it is simply a fact that because of our respect for the Good Friday Agreement and the central importance: Northern Ireland’s unique position means it needs to have access to both markets, not least to avoid a border on the island of Ireland, which nobody wants to see.

“That puts it in a unique position and what the framework does is finally cement those capabilities.”