Joe Kennedy hears call from NI firms for ‘new economic Good Friday Agreement’

Joe Kennedy has heard a call for a new “economic Good Friday Agreement” for Northern Ireland.

US President Joe Biden’s Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs took part in a roundtable event with businesses from the region in Washington DC on Tuesday.

The event was organised by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) as political leaders from across Ireland are visiting the United States ahead of St Patrick’s Day.

It also comes just weeks before the 25th anniversary of the political landmark Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, and a visit by President Biden to Ireland.

Tina McKenzie, FSB UK policy chair, said while the 25th anniversary of the peace accord is marked, she urged that the next 25 years be about building a “prosperity process”.

“The 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement represents a huge opportunity for a reset in relationships between the US, UK and EU,” she said.

“The fact that President Biden has confirmed that he will be travelling to Northern Ireland in the near future is welcome and will hopefully act as catalyst for enhanced economic ties between the UK and US, and the strengthening of business opportunities between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

“We need to create a new ‘economic Good Friday Agreement’.”

The Stormont Assembly remains in flux while the DUP refuses to participate until its concerns around the Northern Ireland Protocol are addressed.

While the Windsor Declaration agreement between the UK and EU was designed to allay the DUP’s concerns, leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said earlier that the deal does not go far enough, and called for the UK government to give more clarification.

Ms McKenzie said the pieces are “falling into place for what could genuinely be an exciting future for all of us”.

“The Windsor Framework has been published and whilst people and businesses are right to scrutinise the detail, I genuinely hope that we will be in a position to move forward together,” she said.

“During our discussions I was very proud to be able to show the role that small businesses play in the economy of Northern Ireland.

“Businesses right across the United Kingdom have the people, the skills, innovation and drive to create wealth for all our people.

“What we need now is for the politicians to help create the conditions for that entrepreneurial spirit to be nurtured and succeed.

“We know the challenges, we know what needs to be done and now is the time to get on and do it.”

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