Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Tax cut 'no threat to Republic'

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (left) meets Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore at Stormont Castle
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (left) meets Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore at Stormont Castle

A potential cut in the business tax rate in Northern Ireland to the level in operation south of the border is not a threat to the Republic's economy, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has insisted.

Stormont ministers are lobbying the UK Treasury for the powers to set their own corporation tax in a bid to kick-start the region's flagging private sector by making it more competitive with its cross-border neighbour.

On his first official visit to meet Executive counterparts in Belfast, Mr Gilmore said a tax cut in the north should be viewed as an opportunity for the whole island.

"We don't see that as a threat at all," he said.

"I think the challenge for both of us is to work together to grow the economy north and south, that certainly is something that is very much on the minds of the Irish Government and it's something that we intend to work co-operatively on with the First Minister, Deputy First Minister and with the Executive here."

The business levy in the UK currently sits at 26%, compared to 12.5% in the Republic.

Mr Gilmore held separate meetings with First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Justice Minister David Ford at Stormont Castle before visiting a number of cross-community projects supported by the Irish Government.

"I think what we have to do in terms of the economy of the island is look at the opportunities there are for growth, look also at areas where we can more sensibly and perhaps more cost effectively deliver services both sides of the border," he said after meeting Mr McGuinness.

He pointed to co-operation in the health sector and noted the planned cancer unit in Derry which has been part funded by Dublin and will treat patients from both jurisdictions.

A Treasury paper on stimulating Northern Ireland's economy presented a cut in corporation tax as a potential option. Any reduction would be countered by a proportionate cut in direct funding from London through the block grant. While the issue is out for public consultation it is unclear whether the UK Government will approve the move, mindful that other regions may accuse it of treating Northern Ireland favourably.

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