The Northern Ireland Assembly and Business Trust recently brought both MLAs and local company representatives for their annual working visit to Brussels and the important EU institutions.
The visit lasted for three days and was designed to help local business leaders find out more about the opportunities for investment and the best way to work with the EU.
The packed agenda began with a welcome and introduction from Caroline Nash, the Managing Director of the Leuven institute for Ireland in Europe -an old friend to the Trust and a regular stop for any NIABT visit. Next on the agenda was a discussion on the way that the EU institutions work and decision making processes -something that the local businesses found helpful as they increasingly look to improve their connections with the EU.
The second day of the intensive programme began with a talk from the Northern Ireland Executive Office’s team on how the Executive’s Office can help businesses and on some of the issues that they are currently dealing with.
An important part of the day was devoted to discussions around funding opportunities and investment strategies that local companies may be able to take advantage of. The talks by Farha Brahmi, EU R&D Liaison Officer and Damian Nicell, Business Development Director Europe both provoked a vigorous discussion about the best way for local companies to increase their presence in Europe.
A talk given by Antony Manchester Councillor for Economics, Finance and Taxation; & Sanu de Lima – First Secretary (Taxation), from the UK Permanent Representation to the EU on the Eurozone crisis and financial tax proposals gave the NIABT members an inside look at some of the very real issues that are concerning all EU Member States.
David Harmon, Member of Cabinet for Commissioner for Research and Innovation and Catriona Ward from Enterprise Ireland rounded off the day with an informative briefing on research and development and the Irish involvement in the main European research programme, Framework 7-a topic that has already featured in the NIABT’s breakfast briefings in Parliament Buildings.
The final day of the programme featured talks by Dawn Howard from the British Agriculture Bureau and Sean McGuire from the CBI on how Northern Ireland business can lobby more effectively. Tim Render from the UK Permanent Representation to the EU then spoke about regional aid and CAP reform–a topic of great interest to those NIABT members involved in agri-business.
The final piece of business was a meeting with Northern Ireland MEPs to network and talk over some of the presentations that the NIABT members had received.
After this intensive programme, the Trust was on its way back to Northern Ireland to digest all the information they received and put in practice some of the suggestions.
For more information on the NIABT Brussels Programme and how you can get involved – please contact Ivor Gibson at firstname.lastname@example.org