Belfast Telegraph

Air taxes sound like an Irish joke... but we’ve nothing to laugh about

By Claire McNeilly

It’s the epitome of a raw deal. We, as Northern Ireland-based UK taxpayers, help swell the Treasury’s coffers.

It, in turn, hands over some £7bn of that money to help prop up the Republic of Ireland’s ailing economy.

That gives our southern neighbour the means to reduce the tax burden on its citizens, become more competitive and draw vital business away from an area of the UK that has just bailed it out.

It sounds like an Irish joke, but few of us north of the border can see the funny side.

We’ve already witnessed so many businesses forsake the North for the South to take advantage of its ultra-low corporation tax rates.

Now, thanks to increases in airport passenger duty, Northern Ireland travellers are switching to Dublin Airport for their transatlantic transport.

That’s the Dublin Airport that feels a mere stone’s throw away now courtesy of the new, ultra-fast A1/M1 road link. The Dublin Airport that currently boasts 15 times more transatlantic and long-haul traffic than its northern counterpart, Belfast International — which has only just managed to hold on to its one and only US route.

Losing Continental’s New York/Newark service would have put a £20m dent in the Northern Ireland economy.

It’s imperative the Executive keeps pushing Northern Ireland as a special case with regard to this damaging aviation tax.

The outlying Scottish islands are already regarded as such and exempted from paying it; their air traffic is regarded as a ‘lifeline’ service.

A lifeline is what this particular outlying region of the UK desperately needs.

Belfast Telegraph