It’s great to be back in Northern Ireland and to be here at Titanic Belfast.
This stunning exhibition - the biggest of its kind in the world – added £27 million to the Northern Ireland economy in its first year alone and has now attracted over 1 million people from 145 countries around the world. That’s a staggering achievement but it’s just one of many reasons why more and more people are choosing to come and visit Northern Ireland.
From my holidays walking through the beautiful Glens of Antrim and swimming off the Atlantic coast to my first visit as Prime Minister – in my first days in the job, Northern Ireland has always held a special place in my heart.
I was proud this summer to bring the world’s political leaders to Fermanagh for the G8. What we did was to showcase one of the most inspiring political stories of our time: the transformation of Northern Ireland into a country defined by its shared future, not its divided past.
And I am just as proud today to bring the world’s business leaders here, to showcase the exciting economic story that is underpinning this extraordinary political progress.
Tell me this.
Where is the world’s top city for the technology that drives global stock markets?
Is it London? New York? Silicon Valley? Hong Kong? Tokyo?
No. It’s none of those. It’s Belfast – where you’ll find the systems behind the New York Stock Exchange and Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
How about this.
Which country designs, tests or manufactures a quarter of the world’s marine energy devices and produces 40 per cent of the world’s mobile quarrying equipment?
You might have thought it was Norway. Or perhaps America or Korea.
But no, it’s Northern Ireland – where you’ll find companies like Terex who yesterday announced a further 260 jobs in Country Tyrone.
When I became Prime Minister I went to visit President Obama in Washington. Turning up in a motorcade, going past the marine guard and the secret service officers with their shades and earpieces I finally reached the inner sanctum of the White House. I really thought I’d made it. And then I realised that a business from Northern Ireland had already got there first. Yes a company called Heartsine – who made the portable defibrillators!
Of course, we know about Scotch whisky, but the world’s oldest licenced whiskey distillery is Bushmills here in County Antrim.
People flock to London to see the red buses – but they are actually made by Wrightbus in Ballymena.
And we shouldn’t forget the third largest sports event in the world the World Police and Fire Games - held here this Summer.
Northern Ireland is increasingly becoming a destination of choice. And rightly so.
Northern Ireland has a track record of attracting inward investment. With over 800 foreign investors, Northern Ireland is now second only to London as the top UK destination for inward investment, with almost 8,000 jobs from foreign investment in the last three years alone.
But despite all this, the challenge is simply this: the state sector is too big and the private sector too small. And every politician is committed to the rebalancing that needs to take place not least by continuing to work on corporation tax so we can make a final decision on the devolution of these powers by next Autumn. But the case for Northern Ireland is not based solely on future tax rules.
Northern Ireland’s education system has the highest rankings for reading and numeracy of any English speaking part of the world. Its universities are respected around the world and produce 4,000 business and technology graduates every year. Its engineering and manufacturing expertise has been honed over generations.
Dunlop tyres, Ferguson tractors and Short Brothers planes are all pioneering examples of a great tradition that continues today.
And of course, there is the opportunity to benefit from the UK’s time zone where you can trade with Asia in the morning and America in the afternoon and all the while using English as the global language of business.
So I make no apology for being a bit of a salesman today. I know some people think it’s a bit undignified for a Prime Minister to make a sales pitch. But I disagree. I am passionate about the power of business to create jobs and growth. And I am passionate about what Northern Ireland has to offer.
So I’m here today with one simple message: put your money in Northern Ireland and be part of this incredible story. Because investing in Northern Ireland makes business sense. So let me tell you what the UK government is doing – together with the Northern Ireland Executive - to help ensure Northern Ireland is ready to make the most of your investments.
First, how we are making Northern Ireland one of the most competitive places to invest anywhere in the world. And second, how we are supporting the Northern Ireland Executive – now in its seventh year of continuous devolved government - to cement a political journey that is shaping a shared future for this very special part of the United Kingdom.
Like the whole of the UK, the economy in Northern Ireland is turning a corner. Manufacturing exports are at their highest level for two years.
Unemployment has fallen by 2,700 over seven consecutive months the most sustained fall in unemployment for six years with more than 5,000 new jobs created in the past year alone.
Northern Ireland is benefiting from the tough decisions the UK government is taking to deal with the deficit, with low interest rates, vital for businesses to get affordable loans and for hardworking families to be able to get on the housing ladder.
But just as crucial for this economic progress is the decisive action we are taking to boost our international competitiveness in key sectors.
One of these is television and film.
When HBO commissioned a fourth series of Game of Thrones here in Northern Ireland it wasn’t just about beautiful scenery, they said it was also about the tax breaks for high end television production in George Osborne’s budget.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Across the UK we are committing to becoming the best place in Europe to start, finance or grow a business. We are saving businesses £1 billion by slashing red tape. We’re cutting corporation tax to 20 per cent, the lowest in the G7. And we’re investing directly in helping Northern Ireland. Belfast will receive up to £13.7 million in broadband funding, helping to give Northern Ireland the highest availability of superfast broadband anywhere in the UK.
We’re extending our start-up loans and enterprise finance schemes to cover Northern Ireland. We’re investing £20 million in research and development and delivering £18 billion of capital funding by 2017.
All these steps are vital in helping Northern Ireland to succeed in the global race. And the new investments are pouring in. Scottish Power and DONG Energy have invested in the first purpose built offshore wind facility of its kind anywhere in the UK - the largest single investment in Belfast harbour’s 400 year history.
The day after the G8 concluded, Japanese healthcare firm Terumo BCT announced a £2 million investment in research and development – creating 416 new jobs in Larne in Co Antrim. The Heritage Lottery Fund is today announcing a new £5 million investment in the Harland and Wolff Drawing Offices transforming them into an 87-bedroom boutique hotel with the potential to create more than 100 new jobs, part of their investment of at least £125 million to use heritage buildings across the UK to boost local economies over the next five years. Thales Air Defence in Belfast have just won a new contract from the Ministry of Defence worth millions of pounds for the production of 200 Starstreak missiles – the world’s fastest very short range weapon.
And today also sees the largest ever single investment in Northern Ireland, with Bombardier investing £520 million right here in Belfast to design, manufacture and assemble the advanced composite wings for its new CSeries commercial aircraft. This means further deals for over 200 suppliers across the UK and it brings Bombardier’s overall investment in Northern Ireland to more than £2 billion.
These are just some of the fantastic new investments being made and I urge you today to ask how you can benefit from joining this new wave of investments that can do so much for your business and for the future of this very special part of the United Kingdom.
Let me turn to that future.
To make new investments you want to know that the political progress we have seen in Northern Ireland will remain on track. It is a remarkable story that politicians who were adversaries are now working together. And no-one should doubt how serious all these politicians are about this work. To anyone who asks whether this can endure – there is a track record of more than 15 years of progress. Of course, there are big political issues that still need to be resolved. And Coalition government isn’t easy. I know that first hand – and we’ve only got two parties sharing power in Westminster. It’s simply not possible to agree on everything. But we’re committed to working closely with you as you tackle these issues.
And I know that you are determined to find lasting solutions in the interests of the whole community. The UK government is fully supporting the plans that the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have set out. We are raising the amount of money that the Executive can borrow to invest in shared school campuses and shared housing schemes. And we are supporting their ambitious plans to get rid of the so-called peace walls. Northern Ireland also benefits from a relationship between the UK and the Republic of Ireland that is stronger than ever before, as the whole world saw during Her Majesty the Queen’s historic State Visit in 2011. The Irish government is taking the tough decisions necessary to turn its economy around. Trade between our two countries is booming.
Millions travel between the UK and Ireland every year and our two countries are working on joint visa arrangements to make it easier for people from around the world to visit and invest. When I first announced that the G8 would be held in Northern Ireland, there were many who wondered whether it was the right thing to do. But Northern Ireland didn’t just deliver a great G8. It delivered the most peaceful G8 ever.
As you would expect, I looked into the details of the protestors who came. There were six tents in the protestors’ camp in total. Two of the campers turned out to be Dutch tourists.
What the world saw this summer – and what we are showing today – is something that just two decades ago would have been completely unimaginable.
A new Northern Ireland open for business and ready for your investment.
A new Northern Ireland strengthening the foundations for peace, stability and prosperity.
A new Northern Ireland determined to be defined not by its divided past, but instead by its shared future.
Today you can choose to be part of that future. I urge you do to so. For your businesses – and for the future of this very special part of the United Kingdom.