Smaller parties left out of key negotiations – Nesbitt

Mike Nesbitt
Mike Nesbitt

The smaller parties in the Northern Ireland Executive were on the outside of key budgetary negotiations involving David Cameron and Stormont’s leaders, the Ulster Unionists have claimed.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said late night talks on solving the spending crisis in the Executive were primarily conducted between the Prime Minister and the two largest parties, the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein.

He said a failure by the DUP and Sinn Fein to declare their bottom lines in terms of finances had inhibited negotiation to extract a better funding offer from the Government than the one tabled by Mr Cameron.

“I would love to say that we had a crucial role, but we spent a lot of last night outside a room where the Prime Minister was talking to the parties who lead the (Stormont) government and that is the real politik of it,” he said.

Mr Nesbitt said the failure to strike a deal on finances had placed a serious risk over the Chancellor’s offer to devolve corporation tax powers to Northern Ireland. In his Autumn Statement, George Osborne said he would transfer the power, but only if the Executive made progress on its budgetary problems.

Mr Nesbitt said the stimulus created from cutting the rate of corporation tax could create up to 50,000 high quality jobs.

“We are not in a good place,” he said.

“But it still needs to be fixed and it needs to be fixed urgently because it now looks like corporation tax is hanging on by a thread.”

SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said the cross-party talks must continue in the absence of Mr Cameron and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

“The Prime Minister and Taoiseach have left and they have not left a solution behind them,” he said.

The South Belfast MP added: “We need their further assistance, engagement and commitment to get to the comprehensive deal that all of our people need and deserve.”