The Prime Minister has been urged to "just say yes" to the campaign to cut corporation tax in Northern Ireland at a crunch meeting today with the First and Deputy First Ministers.
The CBI, other business groups and politicians from all the main parties have called on David Cameron to give his blessing to the devolution of tax-setting powers to the Assembly.
Today the Belfast Telegraph – which has been behind the campaign since its inception – publishes an open letter to the Prime Minister urging him to take the historic measure.
Supporters were also urged to tweet messages of encouragement to the PM to @number10gov today – and last night companies like Cubis Industries and Bombardier Aerospace had begun hammering home the message on Twitter. The pro-cut lobby view today's meeting at Number 10 as D-Day in the campaign to have a lower tax rate so that the province can compete with the Republic's 12.5% level.
It's estimated that 26% of the working population in Northern Ireland is employed in the public sector, leaving its economy less dynamic that other UK regions and the Republic. In addition, at 8.5% Northern Ireland's unemployment rate is at its highest in 15 years, and is the second highest in the UK. Opponents argue that any cut will make Northern Ireland into a tax haven, and that people would suffer from the cuts in Northern Ireland's block grant needed to fund the concession. In the Budget last week the main UK rate of corporation tax was cut to 20% from 2015. With Northern Ireland having to make up the shortfall to the UK coffers of a tax cut, the tax cut means it would cost Northern Ireland less.
In November, the joint ministerial group presented a report to the Prime Minister on the reduction of corporation tax and he is said to have been considering the matter since then.
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce said: "Northern Ireland needs to grow the private sector and to address the fact that unemployment levels are at a 15-year high. A major challenge in this regard is competition from the Republic of Ireland where over 35,000 jobs have been created in the last year through foreign investment."
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Ian Coulter, chairman of the CBI, said: "We urge you now to put these words into action and give it the economic lever most likely to rebalance the Northern Ireland economy. It is your decision – just say yes."