Three of the largest industry groups in the province have launched their plan to get the local economy moving and increase productivity at a major event at Westminster.
Retail NI, Hospitality Ulster and Manufacturing NI have joined forces to co-host a Northern Ireland economy reception at the House of Commons attended by more than 200 MPs, Peers, diplomats and local business owners, said to be one of the largest ever Northern Ireland events at Westminster.
Secretary of State Karen Bradley, Shadown Secretary Tony Lloyd and MPs Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Paul Maskey all addressed the event as the joint policy document ‘New Deal For Northern Ireland’ was launched.
One of the key actions demanded is for Westminster to set a firm date of April 2021 for the introduction of a Northern Ireland rate of corporation tax.
In the meantime, the three business groups headed up by Glyn Roberts, Colin Neill and Stephen Kelly respectively have urged that the £300 million earmarked to fund the tax, orginally to have been in place for April 2018, to be reinvested in skills, infrastructure and a radical extension of the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme
“Despite our political difficulties at Stormont, our central message at this event is that Northern Ireland has a vibrant business community which is still very much open for business,” the men said in a joint statement.
“We have a shared ambition of making Northern Ireland the best place in the UK to shop, socialise and to start or locate a business.
“As we approach 600 days of no Government we need to see action. Our New Deal report sets out how we can achieve this ambition.
“Northern Ireland is falling behind and it’s time decision-takers and policy-makers act to introduce radical change to our failing economic policy. We believe that redistributing some of the money earmarked for Corporation Tax to skills, infrastructure and struggling small businesses will help to stimulate major economic growth.”
Critical to the future of the economy is rates reform they added.
“Many small traders are struggling to pay their rate bills and we are calling for the largest ever rate relief of £100 million to support our town and city centres and to ensure small business owners can reinvest more of their own money into growing their business and employing more staff
“For too long businesses have been thwarted by outdated legislation, increasing rates, soaring energy prices and high employment policy costs.
On Brexit they said it was “imperative” that Westminster guarantee the protection of free movement of people, goods and services from RoI to the UK and vice versa,” with the province positioned as an important bridge between the UK and the rest of the EU.