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Monday 25 June 2018

May under pressure to protect jobs in Belfast Bombardier plants

Bombardier Aerospace plant in Belfast. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Bombardier Aerospace plant in Belfast. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

John Mulgrew

Theresa May is under pressure to stand up to US President Donald Trump to ensure thousands of jobs in Northern Ireland at aviation firm Bombardier are not lost.

The UK government has warned its relationship with US rival Boeing "could be jeopardised", after the firm's complaint against Bombardier resulted in a massive 220pc tariff on its Belfast-made C Series planes being sold to the US.

Mrs May said the UK government would continue to work to protect more than 4,000 workers at Bombardier's plants in the North, who face an uncertain future after a ruling from the Trump administration's Department of Commerce.

Up to 1,000 Bombardier staff in Northern Ireland work on the wings and fuselage of the C Series passenger planes.

During a trip to Belfast yesterday, Britain's Defence Secretary Michael Fallon warned that the "behaviour" by Boeing "could jeopardise our future relationship".

"Boeing stands to gain a lot from British defence spending, we have contracts in place for new maritime patrol aircraft and Apache attack helicopters and they will also be bidding for other defence projects," he said.

Mrs May has already directly lobbied Mr Trump over the dispute.

While Bombardier branded the decision "absurd", unions have accused Mrs May of being "asleep at the wheel".

Yesterday, Mrs May spoke to Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill in separate phone calls.

Bombardier will have the chance to appeal the decision further up the food chain still, to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

DUP leader Mrs Foster said it was a "very disappointing determination, but it is not the end of the process and there are further steps that will follow".

Sinn Féin leader Mrs O'Neill said the ruling was a "blow to the many families and workers who face a very uncertain future and difficult times ahead".

Alliance East Belfast MLA Chris Lyttle said it was important to remember that the "astounding ruling" was preliminary, and not the final decision.

Irish Independent

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