Corporation tax can and should still form a vital part of Northern Ireland’s weaponry in the fight for economic growth, a spokesman for a leading group of business organisations has claimed.
Speaking after a meeting of umbrella group Grow NI in Belfast yesterday, he said it was determined that renewed political upheaval would not be allowed to jeopardise the efforts that had gone into bringing the tax concession to the Province in the wake of the peace process.
Last year Northern Ireland was ceded the right to set the corporation tax level for the Province at a rate of 12.5% from April 1, 2018.
The move, while the GB rate is expected to sit at 17%, has been designed to level the playing field with the Irish Republic where the rate is currently also set at 12.5%.
However, the activation of the rate is dependent on the approval from the Treasury in London on proof that the Exective can ‘balance the books’ in preparation for a drop in Block Grant funding.
Unsurprisingly, the loss of half a billion pounds in the RHI scandal has been thrown up as proof that that position is unachievable, but Grow NI is undaunted.
“The business community is fed up to the back teeth. Corporation tax was introduced with the help of Stormont but not by Stormont.
“Similarly, businesses in Northern Ireland have done really well on a global basis with the help of Stormont but not because of Stormont.
“To a certain extent, it is possible to live without Stormont but it’s certainly sub-optimal.
“This idea that if Stormont’s not working everything stops, people are saying; ‘No, that isn’t going to be the case’.
“The thrust of where we are coming from is that, if we can, let’s get Stormont up and running and get people working for the benefit of one another.
“If that’s not going to be the case, then we’ll work with whoever we need to work with.”
The preferred route, he said, would be to move forward through a functioning Executive and a functioning Assembly “because that’s the message you want to be sending to the world”.
“Up until last June, the only way this thing could have worked was because the Assembly votes to do it because European legislation requires that, but last June the world changed.
“We’re still in the EU for now, but the question of it having to be the Assembly to implement it is not as certain as it used to be. It need not be the Assembly taking the decision at all.”