Belfast Telegraph

Corporation tax analysis: Businesses thinking not again as parties scupper progress on welfare reform

By John Mulgrew

Just when we all thought the long road was finally clear, we hit another rather sizeable bump.

And while the spotlight now falls firmly on the shoulders of Stormont - scrambling to find a solution to the deadlock over welfare reform - businesses and groups throughout Northern Ireland are thinking: not again.

Devolving and lowering corporation tax to Northern Ireland has been a long, hard-fought campaign aimed at making the region more competitive with our neighbours in the south.

And when the good news came in January that a Bill had been created, Prime Minister David Cameron said it was a "great opportunity" which he hoped Northern Ireland's leaders would "grasp with both hands". And business leaders and experts said it could herald a "new dawn" in a "victory for business in Northern Ireland".

But of course, it all depended on our folks on the hill balancing the budget and making progress on welfare reform.

There was some scepticism among journalists that this seemingly clear path for powers to be handed over could still face a brick wall. Theresa Villiers herself remained positive but she had trouble explaining how Westminster would decide if Stormont had played by the rules, and deserved its business tax-setting ability when the time came. The big issue now for firms and government is this much-heralded power will only work if Northern Ireland can start selling its attractiveness to big-name investors to set up shop here.

But at the moment, that's not possible while serious uncertainty exists over its future.

And keep in mind the UK is going to have a brand new government in just two months, and it may have a different view on just what tax powers Northern Ireland can be trusted with.

The coming days and weeks will be key in seeing what the future holds for our business tax.

Belfast Telegraph