Arlene Foster: Corporation tax could be slashed to 10% to compete with GB
DUP leader Arlene Foster has indicated she is open to reducing corporation tax to 10%. The former First Minister warned, however, that the level could not be lowered further under direct rule.
Mrs Foster said a return to political instability "threatened the economic prospects" of Northern Ireland".
She added she was open to lowering the rate to compete with a cut in Great Britain.
Stormont is due to have the power to set its own business levy rate by April 2018. The Executive previously committed to a 12.5% rate.
"I remain committed to delivering the 12.5% corporation tax rate in 2018, and indeed with the shift at UK level to lower the main rate, I am certainly open to looking at lowering the rate to 10%," Mrs Foster said.
"Fundamental to the economic strategy is the devolution of corporation tax setting powers."
But Mrs Foster, who was attending a Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce event at BT's base in Belfast, warned that "simply can't happen" if Stormont was not up and running.
"It can't be done under direct rule," she added.
"It also needs to have the political will and the drive to make it happen."
Mrs Foster said if an Executive could not be formed following the election on March 2, it will "certainly not be the scenario to maximise future prosperity and grow our economy".
"As everyone in this room knows, political stability is a key factor when attracting foreign direct investment, and indeed jobs as well," she added.
"I know there is nothing more frustrating for the business community. I find that equally as frustrating because it is bad for business and it is bad for Northern Ireland.
"It means no reduction in corporation tax, it means no enhanced small business rates relief, and it threatens the stability which has been underpinned by all of the investment of recent years.
"Make no mistake about it...it is the future of devolution itself (which will be decided at the election)."
Mrs Foster said Northern Ireland's seat at the Brexit negotiations was also "at stake".
"I know some of us were on different sides of the argument, but now we need to get the best deal," she stressed.
"Personally, I believe there is huge potential outside the EU, but in order to get to that potential we need to get the right deal for the UK and for us here in Northern Ireland in particular."
"That means recognising the very special circumstances of Northern Ireland in terms of our history and geography."
Mrs Foster also said Brexit was "the biggest challenge the UK administration (has faced) since the Second World War".