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Digression on Brexit 'won't hit Northern Ireland push'

By Michael McHugh

The First and Deputy First Ministers have pledged to continue to strongly sell the economic benefits of Northern Ireland whatever the outcome of the Brexit referendum.

Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster said critics of their divisions over Europe had conceded it was entirely legitimate to hold differing positions.

They added: "That will not hinder our ability to sell the economic benefits of Northern Ireland.

"We have done that very successfully in the past and will continue to do so in the future, whatever the outcome of the referendum."

The DUP is campaigning for Britain to leave the EU ahead of the June 23 referendum.

Sinn Fein, meanwhile, wants to remain.

The DUP and Sinn Fein are expected to remain the two largest parties after May's Stormont election and continue to control the top two leadership posts.

Former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Empey said the ministers were presenting totally different investment scenarios to Americans during this week's US trade mission coinciding with St Patrick's Day.

The value of the pound has plummeted amid uncertainty surrounding the Brexit poll.

The Stormont leaders are promoting a reduced rate of corporation tax during their US visit. The tax cut was agreed as part of the Fresh Start deal and is due to take effect in 2018.

Executive ministers hope to use reduced corporation tax to lure foreign investors. Companies in Northern Ireland will have profits taxed at 12.5%, compared to 19% in the rest of the UK.

The US is the largest investor in Northern Ireland, with nearly 180 companies employing nearly 24,000 people.

Mrs Foster and Mr McGuinness are promoting the new tax powers to potential investors in Washington DC, New York and Silicon Valley.

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