Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Making a case for corporate tax cut

This newspaper has been an unashamed supporter of the campaign to devolve corporation tax-varying powers to Stormont, but even we confess to being less optimistic than in the past that it will actually happen.

Westminster does not want to be a hostage to fortune on this issue and fears that that wily politician, SNP leader Alex Salmond, would seize upon any devolution to Northern Ireland and demand parity for Scotland in his increasingly vocal independence campaign.

Our case has not been strengthened by the relatively timid performance of at least some local politicians in seeking control over local corporation tax rates. The Treasury's inflated view of the price we would have to pay if the tax was devolved - in the reduction in the block grant - has worried the Executive, although today's meeting with a ministerial working group in London should make the situation clearer.

What is not in doubt is the continuing validity of the demands to be allowed to cut corporation tax rates here to a level approaching that in the Republic. Uniquely in the UK we share a land border with what is essentially a foreign country with a more attractive tax regime for inward investors. Having moved to gain control over the hated Air Passenger Duty which would reduce the cost of long-haul flights and potentially bring in new airlines, the same zeal must be applied to corporation tax devolution.

It must be recognised that it would take a very brave Prime Minister to go against the Treasury, which is reluctant to devolve tax-varying powers to Northern Ireland, especially with a publicity adept Mr Salmond ready to exploit every opportunity for creating mischief between now and the next General Election. But he must be forced to recognise the intrinsic merit in our argument and act accordingly.

And today our team of ministers, who have the full backing of the business community, must make that case with all due conviction.

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