Belfast Telegraph

DUP deal with Tories 'could speed up corporation tax devolution to NI'

By John Mulgrew

A DUP deal with the Conservatives could lead to "some movement" on devolving corporation tax here and help "partly offset" the risks posted by Brexit, it's been claimed.

DUP leader Arlene Foster will meet Prime Minister Theresa May in London today over a possible confidence and supply agreement which will keep the Tories in power, but potentially secure additional benefits for Northern Ireland.

Economist John Simpson said that extra UK budgetary support for Northern Ireland "would be welcome as part of any potential deal".

"The business community is well aware of the damage that may be caused by uncertainty as an unstable government negotiates a controversial Brexit deal," he said.

"A cooperation agreement with the DUP will help to partly offset the growing risks of a serious down-turn in the economy whilst Brexit uncertainty hits business plans."

And Andrew Webb, managing director of Webb Advisory, said the talks could help push the devolution of corporation tax along.

"If we were going for a full-fat coalition, the shopping list would undoubtedly involve infrastructure investment and mitigations around welfare reform and plenty more besides," he said.

"I think we could see some movement on corporation tax, but I think the main theme will be around shifting the Prime Minister away from the hardest of Brexits towards a negotiating position that takes more consideration of the Northern Ireland/Republic border and movement of people, to ensure skills availability."

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland-born Sir John Parker, the former Harland & Wolff boss and outgoing chairman of Anglo American, said: "We need to find stability as quickly as possible, through whatever arrangements can be agreed between parties."

And in the Sunday Times, he called for an end to "anti-business rhetoric" from the UK Government.

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, said that securing a new economic investment package for Northern Ireland must be top of the priority list.

"If NI MPs are in a serious position of influence with the incoming UK government, the top policy priority must be a substantial new economic investment package," he said.

"Northern Ireland needs a new economic deal from Westminster.

"We should also consider the benefits of the Northern Ireland Executive having more fiscal powers to boost our economy."

Scott Henderson, managing director of tax specialists Jumpstart, said: "It is essential that the Conservatives and DUP - should they align - embrace fiscal and industrial policies that will strengthen the UK's competitive position as we transition from a protected entity with the EU into a larger, more competitive trading environment."

Meanwhile, a fall in the value of the pound has led to a surge in Northern Ireland exports, up 12% in the first quarter of 2017.

Exports to the US saw the largest growth, according to the fresh figures from HMRC. That was followed by an increase of 12.5% to the Republic.

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