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The British government wants to see business as usual in Northern Ireland once the UK leaves the EU, the transport secretary has said.
On a visit to a Wrightbus coachbuilding facility in Ballymena, Co Antrim, Chris Grayling attempted to allay the uncertainty that exists within sections of the region’s business community on the consequences of Brexit for trade with the Republic and continental Europe.
“We are very committed to maintaining a free-moving border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland,” he said.
“This is something that has existed for decades, we have had the Common Travel Area since 1923. The economies are so closely linked – all of us want to see close relations, want to see free flowing borders, business able to carry on what it does now.”
Wrightbus founder William Wright was a vocal supporter of Brexit in last year’s referendum.
Mr Grayling was asked whether his visit to a factory in the DUP heartland of North Antrim was related to the government’s confidence-and-supply agreement with the Northern Ireland party.
“I am here to support Northern Ireland and here to support the United Kingdom, ” he replied.
Mr Grayling was shown the low-emissions technology being used in hydrogen- and electric-powered buses being manufactured in the Ballymena plant.
In the last two years the government has provided more than £40 million under the Low Emission Bus Scheme to help buy over 450 low-emissions buses. Around 70 of Wrightbus’s low-emissions buses are being produced with funding from the scheme. The government has pledged more than £1 billion to fund ultra-low-emissions vehicles by 2020.
Mr Grayling hailed the Ballymena business as a “UK success story”.
“Wrightbus is selling buses around the world,” he said.
“I go around the world selling UK transport capabilities and I want to be able to go out there and say we have a fantastic business here in Northern Ireland and we want to see Wrightbuses in cities all around the world.”
On his trip to Northern Ireland, Mr Grayling also visited Belfast International Airport and weapons manufacturer Thales UK. – Press Association