How valuable is Bombardier to the economy of Northern Ireland?

Published: 13th Oct 2017

In brief

Claim

Bombardier is worth 10% of Northern Ireland’s GDP.

Conclusion

We’ve seen no evidence for this. Bombardier claims it makes up 10% of Northern Ireland’s manufacturing exports, which is about 2% of its GDP.

“If Bombardier were to be lost to Northern Ireland it would be a cataclysmic blow to our economy here, it’s fully 10% of the entire GDP of Northern Ireland.”

Owen Smith, 12 October 2017

Plane and train manufacturer Bombardier itself claims it “produces around 10% of Northern Ireland’s total manufacturing exports”, not GDP as Mr Smith claimed. Bombardier’s claim suggests it’s closer to 2% of GDP.

It’s very possible Mr Smith misspoke when he made the claim and meant to say this. We’re trying to confirm whether Bombardier recognises Mr Smith’s version.

Jobs at Bombardier are threatened due to a trade dispute. Bombardier is a Canadian company. Their plant in Belfast is involved in producing the C-Series plane.

US plane manufacturer Boeing claims that Bombardier was able to sell the C-Series to the US airline Delta at a reduced price because Canada and the UK had provided illegal state subsidies to the company.

The US Department of Commerce is investigating the case. If they decide against Bombardier, the cost of importing the plane the Belfast factory helps make to the US could rise sharply with “serious implications for the workers” at the Belfast plant, according to the UK government.

Based on published figures Owen Smith’s statement that Bombarder makes up 10% of the Northern Ireland economy is unlikely to be right. We’ve asked his office for more details.

Bombardier and the Northern Irish economy

Northern Ireland’s economy was worth about £34 billion in 2015, according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics. So 10%—as Mr Smith’s claim suggests—is in the region of £3.4 billion.

Figures suggest that about 22% of the NI economy comes from manufacturing exports. If Bombardier does make up 10% of that, as the company itself says, then its exports would be worth about about £760 million and account for roughly 2% of the overall economy.

Separate figures suggest the manufacturing of transport equipment as a whole is worth just under 2% of the economy.

These calculations are very rough and neither will show Bombardier’s exact contribution to Northern Ireland’s economy. But they do suggest 10% is unrealistically high.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time. Read the roundup.

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