Belfast Telegraph

Business tax body hits out at flag row mayhem

By Margaret Canning

A business body set up to campaign for the devolution of corporation tax-setting powers has urged the Prime Minister to grant their wish.

GROW NI said it had written to David Cameron, telling him that the province's increasingly fragile economy left a cut in business tax more urgent than ever.

The letter was sent ahead of a meeting between the Prime Minister and the First and deputy First Ministers, which Martin McGuinness has said he hoped will take place before the spring Budget on March 20.

Corporation tax in the UK is currently 24% and will fall to 21% in April. However, campaigners in Northern Ireland have lobbied intensely for two years for a cut to the Republic's rate of 12.5% or lower, which they say will boost the province's economy.

GROW NI's letter stated: "We understand that this issue is now with you for your decision on whether to proceed with the necessary devolution of powers to the NI Assembly.

"In the last two years the Northern Ireland economy has become even further divergent from the wider UK economy and youth unemployment has reached almost one in four."

Riots and unrest following Belfast City Council's decision to fly the Union flag on designated days had created "all the wrong type of headlines around the world".

"The business community in Northern Ireland have been dismayed by this needless outbreak of civil unrest not to mention the damaging financial consequences.

"At the same time, pictures broadcast from Beijing to Los Angeles are entirely misrepresentative of the massive strides that have been made in Northern Ireland in the last two decades and are hugely damaging to our region."

The letter said a Treasury paper two years ago had pinpointed devolution of corporation tax as a means of increasing the size of the private sector, and that all the main political parties in Northern Ireland were in favour of it.

"This willingness is unique to Northern Ireland and the cross party political support and cross business support does not exist in any other part of the UK.

"We therefore urge you to now agree to the devolution of tax varying powers to the NI Assembly and give Northern Ireland a chance to help it promote an economic future that will be compelling to all of our citizens."

Belfast Telegraph