Economy Minister keen to push ahead with corporation tax cut to help 'transform Northern Ireland economy'
Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has said plans to cut corporation tax in Northern Ireland to 12.5% will go ahead. And he also sought to reassure businesses that there would be no "crash landing" for the economy here following the EU referendum.
Stormont's grand plan to bring Northern Ireland into line with the Republic of Ireland's 12.5% levy were thrown into disarray earlier this week when George Osborne announced he is planning to make a similar move following the Brexit vote.
At a gathering of business leaders in Belfast yesterday, Simon Hamilton said Stormont remains committed to its original plan.
"We don't know how long it will take Westminster to introduce a new rate," he said.
The DUP MLA also said he could not rule out the possibility that Stormont will cut corporation tax further in the event Mr Osborne goes ahead with his proposal to decrease corporation tax to less than 15% across the UK.
Mr Hamilton made the remarks after making his first major speech since taking up the post of Economy Minister.
He said the Brexit would be a "managed process". "Yes there is much to do . But it will be done and it will be carefully managed."
During the address in front of hundreds of businesspeople at Allstate's headquarters in Belfast city centre, he set out his vision for transforming the province into a globally competitive economy.
"I want us to develop an economy that we are proud of and that is the envy of others.
"I want us to become a breakout nation. A truly emerging economy on the world stage. The very model of a modern regional economy.
"That will require a continuation and indeed an acceleration of the economic reforms the Executive have been pursuing.
"Our vision for Northern Ireland is of a rebalanced economy. Ending our over reliance on the public sector for employment and growth. It was ambitious. But our plan is working."
Mr Hamilton said he is determined that, despite its size, Northern Ireland can deliver on the same level as nations such as Singapore, Sweden and Finland.
"They are nations that aren't without their challenges either, but in many respects they are, structurally, everything we should aspire to have in our economy," he said.
"Small, but open, innovative, dynamic, export-driven economies."
Mr Hamilton said improving Northern Ireland's competitiveness will help to improve the economy.
As a result, he has tasked officials to examine the province's performance against nations like Singapore, New Zealand and Estonia. He also said investment to ensure Northern Ireland has a skilled workforce is also crucial to ensure its success on the global stage.
Meanwhile, Nick Coburn, the recently elected President of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber), said it is vital that business remain positive and demonstrate leadership in the wake of the Brexit vote. Mr Coburn said it is business as usual at Ulster Carpets, where he is managing director, despite the economic uncertainty surrounding the UK leaving the EU.
He also said freedom of movement of the workforce and the UK's inclusion in the European single market are crucial for the economy.
"Certainly within the chamber, we are saying to all of our members that whilst there are quite a lot of questions, business is carrying on, we're continuing to invest and continuing on with our current plans," he said.
Ulster Carpets is pressing ahead with plans to extend into Germany despite the Brexit vote.
"I have had a meeting with the sales director to go through the final plans," he said. "All our investment plans remain the same as they were before June 23."