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  1. The economy committee received an overview briefing from Invest NI.
  2. Tourism NI officials also briefed the committee on the industry's prospects.
  3. Officials from the Special European Union Programmes Board (SEUPB) briefed the Finance Committee.
  4. Departmental officials briefed the committee on the work of the Central Procurement Directorate (CPD).

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Brooke Allen

All times stated are UK

Good evening

Mrs Pengelly adjourns the committee.

Join us tomorrow morning at 10:00 BST for live coverage of the Agriculture Committee.

Norway and Switzerland

John O'Dowd

John O'Dowd of Sinn Féin says the SEUPB was set up under the Good Friday Agreement, and this is an agreement between the United Kingdom and Ireland. 

Ms McIntyre says "there are options going forward" and that "there are programmes around Europe, with Norway and Switzerland, INTERREG programmes that operate on the basis of one member is in and one member is not".

The Commission and the Treasury

Sterling and euros

Mr Duffy considers options for the future.

"Part of the negotiation would be an expectation that any commitments would be honoured," he says.

"If it were not to be honoured by the Commission then one would expect that if the money were then to be released back into the Treasury the case could be made to Treasury that these particular aspects would be funded."

Article 50

Emma Pengelly says SEUPB is still inviting calls for projects running more than two years past the triggering of Article 50.

"Is that not going to have real practical difficulties?" she asks.

Ms McIntyre says SEUPB will work "to ensure that these programmes are delivered to their absolute maximum for the people of Northern Ireland". 

NI deputy leader says Brexit 'not a done deal'

Martin McGuinness

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness says Northern Ireland's exit from the European Union is "not a done deal". 

He said it was quite clear that the will of the people in NI is to remain and he rejected Theresa Villiers' assertion that there can be no special status for Northern Ireland within the EU. 

Teacher replacement scheme gets go-ahead


A controversial scheme allowing teachers over 55 to retire early and be replaced by those recently qualified will start in September.

It was due to begin in the spring but was delayed because of concerns about who would qualify for the vacated posts. Up to 120 teachers are expected to retire early under the scheme.

Programme budgets

Gina McIntyre

Gina McIntyre of SEUPB says there is a budget of 269m euros for PEACE IV.

She says it covers four areas - shared education, children and young people shared spaces and services, and building positive relations.

Regarding INTERREG V, she says 283m euros was allocated "to support greater cohesion in the border area".

Special European Union Programmes Board

Committee briefing

The officials arrive for the Special European Union Programmes Board (SEUPB) briefing.

Frank Duffy of the Department of Finance says ministers have told officials that it is "business as usual for the implementation" of the PEACE IV and INTERREG V programmes. 

'Too many layers of bureaucracy'


Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd takes issue with the procedures required of projects applying for funding.

"We have too many layers of bureaucracy, and accountability, and audit, and review on the spending of public funds," the former Education minister says.

'I found it frustrating trying to spend public money," he says. 

EU funding of capital works

Philip Smith

Ulster Unionist Philip Smith asks about the future of major public works that are receiving "a dollop of European Union funding".

Mr Armstrong says "the issue around the mix of funding of projects will be important" but he is not an expert on the matter.

He says there could be "issues around exchange rates, but "at the minute it's early days".

Corporation tax cost 'won't be waived'

Teresa Villiers

The Treasury won't cut the cost of Northern Ireland reducing its rate of corporation tax, Theresa Villiers says.

First Minister Arlene Foster said yesterday that the UK's withdrawal from the EU could positively change the consequences of cutting the tax, but the Northern Ireland secretary says the Treasury will not waive the cost.

Brexit and EU procurement directives

Des Armstrong and Gareth Johnston

Des Armstrong and Gareth Johnston of the Department of Finance arrive to brief the committee on the work of the Central Procurement Directorate.

Emma Pengelly asks about the possible effects of Brexit and the removal of EU procurement directives.

Mr Armstrong says public procurement is "heavily regulated by the European Union" and it is "seen as one of the key drivers to help establish a single market". 


Members discuss the outworkings of the European referendum on the committee's future work.

Chairperson Emma Pengelly points to what she sees as some emerging opportunities, such as the removal of constraints on state aid.

She says "there has been some panic" and "some hysteria".

Getty Images

Ulster Unionist Philip Smith is concerned about the effect on the forthcoming long-term budget.

He points to the Secretary of State Theresa Villier's comments that the government would not reduce the cost to the NI Executive of the devolution of corporation tax.

Finance Committee

Emma Pengelly

The DUP's Emma Pengelly is in the chair for this afternoon's meeting of the Finance Committee.

The first part of the meeting was held in private session.

We now join the members for a briefing from the Central Procurement Directorate.

Join us after lunch

Deputy chairperson Steve Aiken adjourns the meeting.

It is the committee's final meeting until after the summer recess.

Join us after lunch for live coverage of the Finance Committee from 15:15 BST, including a briefing from the Special European Union Programmes Board (SEUPB).

Cruise ship tourists do not 'stop, stay and spend'

Cruise ship in Belfast

Alan Chambers asks about the economic benefits of cruise ships docking in Northern Ireland. 

Mr McGrillen says "75,000 people are expected to arrive in Northern Ireland" from cruise ships this year, however, he says that "one third of these people will not get off the boats because they get everything for free when they are on it". 

Ms Laura McCorry says Tourism NI are trying to encourage people to "stop, stay and spend and this is the antithesis of a cruise ship model". 

Reduced VAT rate would be 'very helpful'

Ulster Unionist Steve Aiken talks about "improving competitiveness" in Northern Ireland and welcomes Mr McGrillen's suggestion of a reduced VAT rate to 9%, like in the Republic of Ireland. 

In May 2011, the Irish Government announced a reduction in the VAT rate on tourism-related activity from 13.5% to 9%  

Mr McGrillen says "if we had parity with the Republic of Ireland, that would be very helpful". 

Tourism NI and other departments

The Tall Ships visit Belfast in 2015
The Tall Ships visit Belfast in 2015

Conor Murphy talks about events-based tourism, and asks if Tourism NI are also working with the Department for Infrastructure and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. 

Mr McGrillen provides examples of how Tourism NI works with all departments, for example, he says he will be meeting the Chief Executive of Translink this week to see how Tourism NI can contribute to their strategies. 

'Steal bread from somebody else's table'

John McGrillen

Mr McGrillen says tourism is seen as a "key sector within the Northern Ireland economy". 

However, he says that Northern Ireland is "still lagging behind our competition set" and are "delivering about 50% of the potential we have". 

He outlines aims for growth in the tourism sector of 6% per annum. 

"We need to steal bread from somebody else's table," he says. 

Tourism NI briefing

Tourism NI officials at the committee

The Chief Executive Mr John McGrillen, and Ms Laura McCorry, from Tourism NI arrive at the committee to brief members. 

'Business as usual' for Invest NI

Gordon Lyons

The DUP's Gordon Lyons speaks about various countries which have indicated they would like to have trade agreements with Northern Ireland, following the EU referendum result. 

He asks how Invest NI will best exploit these opportunities. 

Mr Fitch says there are two sides and "any change can cause uncertainty" but can also cause "potential for opportunity". 

He says Invest NI is continuing to work on the basis that it is "business as usual" but there may be changes down the line. 

On the trading implications of Brexit, he says it is "very difficult for me to say if one is better than the other". 

Ernst and Young attractiveness survey

The SDLP's Sinead Bradley says looking at recent the Ernst and Young (EY) attractiveness survey, "we are not very attractive". 

You can read the report here. 

She expresses concerns that potential investors looking at these reports would be "put off" coming to Northern Ireland. 

Mr Fitch says Invest NI will be reporting back to EY, "the difficulties" such a report would present. 

North Down 'light on manufacturing jobs'

Alan Chambers

Ulster Unionist Alan Chambers says his constituency of North Down is "particularity light on manufacturing jobs" and he says it seems the area has been neglected by Invest NI. 

Mr Fitch says, "when a new company comes to Northern Ireland they are looking for a solution to a problem they face. They are looking for skills they can't find anywhere else in the world". 

"We are not promoting one part of Northern Ireland over another. We will give them the information and they will decide," he says. 

The need for Grade A offices

The DUP's Gordon Dunne asks about the need for Grade A office accommodation. 

Mr Fitch says the "stock of grade A office accommodation has depleted" and as a result, he says Invest NI has announced it's Grade A office accommodation project. 

Villiers on Brexit and corporation tax

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport tweets

'It's the quality of people we have here'

Steve Aiken

Ulster Unionist Steve Aiken asks about the attractiveness of Northern Ireland as a location now that the UK has voted to leave the European Union. 

Mr Fitch says that "lots of Northern Ireland's attributes stay the same from an attractiveness perspective".  

"People constantly say they are coming to Northern Ireland to access the talent, it's the quality of the people we have here, and they come back for more," he says. 

Mr Fitch emphasises the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects and praises the former Education Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, for his work in areas such as software development. 

Business liaison group to the set up in July

Mervyn Storey

The DUP's Mervyn Storey asks about an Invest NI liaison group for businesses which was announced by the First Minister, Arlene Foster, in the assembly on Monday, whilst discussing the implications of Brexit. 

Mr Fitch says "we are in a period of uncertainty" and the "change is not going to occur overnight". 

"This allows us to manage the change and new relationships in a planned way," he says. 

Mr Fitch says the liaison group of businesses will be set up on either 18 July or 21 July so they "can understand the immediate changes". 

EU Referendum: Brexit result expected to dominate political meetings

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers campaigned on opposite sides of the Brexit debate

The UK's exit from the European Union is expected to dominate the talks agenda in ministerial and cross-border meetings at Stormont.

Northern Ireland Executive ministers are due to meet at 11:00 BST, when they are likely to discuss the potential impact on their government departments.

The secretary of state is to host the Irish foreign minister at 13:00 BST.  

Regional Balance

The committee chairperson Conor Murphy asks about Invest NI's contribution to achieving "regional balance" as they only measure jobs and investment "inside Belfast and outside Belfast". 

Mr Fitch says the role of Invest NI is to "promote Northern Ireland" and once companies come here, they decide where is the best place for them to go. 

"We are committed to Northern Ireland in its entirety, not just Belfast and we will encourage investment, where we can, to be right across the region," he says. 

Mr Fitch says Invest NI will work with the committee and the executive to deliver that in the next Programme for Government (PfG). 

Skills 'vitally important' for economy growth

Skilled worker

Mr Fitch identifies two key areas for Invest NI. 

Firstly, he describes the most important asset of the Northern Ireland economy as "our people and the skills that we have".  

"It is vitally important that we have a skills pipeline coming through," he says. 

In addition, he speaks about innovation and investment. 

"How do we encourage our companies to innovate and invest more?" he asks.  

Invest NI purpose

Invest NI logo on side of building

Mr Fitch explains the purpose of Invest NI, to "improve the Northern Ireland economy through business development". 

He dismisses the notion that Invest NI is focused solely on international businesses and emphasises the support of Invest NI for local businesses. 

He explains that the "vast majority" of offers go to local businesses. 

Invest NI briefing

Jeremy Fitch

Jeremy Fitch from Invest NI has arrived at the committee to brief members. 

In the chair

Conor Murphy

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy is chairing this morning's meeting of the Economy Committee. 

Villiers: 'Governments want open border'

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport tweets

Good morning

Welcome to today's live coverage of the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

The Economy Committee will meet at 10:00 BST, when members will receive a briefing from Invest NI's Jeremy Fitch.

Members will also receive a briefing from Tourism NI. 

This afternoon, we will have live coverage of the Finance Committee from 15:00 BST, when MLAs will receive a briefing from the Special European Union Programmes Body (SEUPB).