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James Brokenshire urges business leaders to help end impasse

By John Mulgrew

The Secretary of State has called on business leaders to "use their influence" to persuade the political parties to re-establish power-sharing.

James Brokenshire was speaking to industry chiefs at a business advisory group meeting at Belfast Harbour Commissioners.

"I urge members to use their influence to encourage political parties to deliver a functioning and effective Executive so we can continue to build an economy that works for everyone," he said.

Mr Brokenshire restated the Government's commitment to returning a devolved power-sharing Assembly.

"Political stability is a fundamental basis for industrial success. Securing strong, stable devolved institutions in Northern Ireland that will provide leadership, support innovation and boost skills will be integral to delivering on Northern Ireland's potential as a place to invest and do business.

"It is, therefore, vital that devolved government is returned to Northern Ireland as soon as possible, and the Government's clear focus is on achieving that."

The impasse at Stormont has already had a direct impact on the economy and business landscape here.

That includes confirmation that an April 2018 date for the devolution of corporation tax powers may slip.

Among the first casualties in the aftermath of the deadline passing without agreement are rates bills, which are now scheduled to go out a month late.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has welcomed the extension of the small business rates relief scheme until March 2018.

Wilfred Mitchell, FSB Northern Ireland policy chair, said: "The extension of the scheme avoids large, unexpected increases in the rates bills of around 20,000 small businesses across Northern Ireland and, crucially, a doubling of the bills for thousands of our very smallest businesses."

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