US ambassador praises Belfast businesses for post-Brexit preparations

The US ambassador to the UK has commended Belfast businesses for the extent of their post-Brexit preparations.

Robert Wood “Woody” Johnson spoke with traders on Friday during his third visit to the city since being appointed ambassador last year.

Mr Johnson also visited the scene of August’s devastating fire in the central Bank Buildings Primark store, a blaze that has forced the erection of a major safety cordon in the heart of the city, causing serious economic consequences for business owners.

Accompanied by US Consul General for Belfast Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau, the ambassador also attended the start of the ‘Friendship Four’ ice hockey tournament involving four top US college sides.

Asked what business figures had told him, Mr Johnson said: “I’m just hearing a similar message to the one I’m hearing across the UK, just the concern with what’s going to happen and how they can plan their small and medium business and big businesses around eventualities.

“Mine was a listening tour, rather than expressing a point of view.

“I was very impressed. I think they have done a lot of thinking about what could happen. I think they are prepared for it.”

Belfast lord mayor Deirdre Hargey welcomed his visit.

“America has played a key role in our peace process here and as we move through Brexit, and no matter the outcome, and into a period looking to build the city, it was important the ambassador came and listened to the voices of the business community and the civic leaders within the city,” she said.

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