Belfast Telegraph

George Osborne urged to head off ‘firesale’ of Ulster assets

By Sam Lister

Chancellor George Osborne has been urged to call on the Republic for guarantees it will not launch a destabilising ‘firesale’ of its assets in Northern Ireland.

Politicians fear the National Asset Management Agency, the ‘bad bank” set up to manage Ireland’s bad debts, will sell off land, property and other assets quickly at rock-bottom prices, shaking the province’s economy.

North Antrim MP Ian Paisley called on the Chancellor for assurances that the Republic’s multi-billion pound loan gives Ulster and the rest of the UK some safety.

He also pushed Mr Osborne on the bid to cut corporation tax to bring it in line with the Republic’s rate of 12.5%.

The Chancellor was updating the Commons on the latest forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK’s tax and spending watchdog, which predicts there “will be no double-dip recession”.

But he conceded there was a “very real interest” in the plans the Irish banks have for assets across the UK.

The Chancellor said: “On the Irish bank restructuring package, this is now going to take several weeks to put in place.

“We are very aware of the interconnectedness of the the banking system of Ireland and Northern Ireland and the UK.

“That’s one of the reasons why we are making this contribution.

“I’m certainly conscious of the fact some of the Irish banks have significant assets in the UK and we have a very real interest in the future of that.

“That’s why the Financial Secretary came to Northern Ireland earlier this week and we want to make sure that the Secretary of State remains in very close contact with the Northern Ireland Executive and members for Northern Ireland,” he added.

“On corporation tax, I don’t think it’s any secret that some member states wanted to attach conditions to Ireland over corporation tax and I don’t deny it is a real challenge for companies in Northern Ireland.

“That’s why the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is looking at that, but I take a position that it is not for other member states to dictate tax rates of sovereign nations, even when they are seeking international assistance.”

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