Corporation tax move 'tough blow' for Stormont

The five main Stormont parties and business lobbyists had been hoping for a decision on corporation tax The five main Stormont parties and business lobbyists had been hoping for a decision on corporation tax

So what was it all about?

The walkabout by George Osborne at Wrightbus in Ballymena?

The appearance by the exchequer secretary, David Gauke, at the launch of a public consultation at the Kelvatek electronic plant at Lisburn?

The countless interviews with former Secretary of State Owen Paterson extolling a corporation tax cut as a potential way of rebalancing Northern Ireland's public sector dominated economy?

After marching Northern Ireland's business community up the hill, David Cameron's government has now left Stormont back virtually where it was when Gordon Brown occupied Number Ten.

Then, after a similar period of enthusiasm, the retired treasury mandarin, Sir David Varney, gave the proposed initiative a thumbs down.

On a visit to Edinburgh, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness tried to convince Alex Salmond not to spoil their pitch for devolving business taxes.

However, as soon as Scottish politicians expressed their interest in getting the power, the Treasury was always going do its sums - bearing in mind what any change might mean, not just for Northern Ireland, but also for the potential loss of Scotland's more lucrative business tax yield.

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness The executive would have to compensate the Treasury for any reduction in corporation tax

David Gauke said devolving the power to Edinburgh would raise the prospect of "substantial practical profit shifting issues".

By postponing any decision until after the Scottish independence referendum, the London government has opened itself up to renewed criticism from the SNP that the only way for Scotland to get wider powers is for voters to opt for full independence.

London ministers appear to be banking - on the basis of the opinion polls - on a Scottish "no" vote.

David Cameron has said that after such a result, London would be flexible about extending extra powers to Edinburgh.

But the prime minister, it seems, would rather get into the nitty gritty of corporation tax after the Scottish poll, than create a precedent beforehand.

Some may welcome Downing Street's decision to pour cold water on the corporation tax campaign.

The trade unions and the North Down MP, Lady Sylvia Hermon, worried about the potential cost to public services.

The TUV leader, Jim Allister, reckoned trying to match the Irish Republic's 12.5% rate was "chasing a moonbeam".

But for the five main Stormont parties and the business lobbyists who had been building up their hopes in recent days this is a tough blow.

They'd hoped corporation tax might prove a "game changer" - now they are going to have to go back to playing their same, old game.

Mark Devenport Article written by Mark Devenport Mark Devenport Political editor, Northern Ireland

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  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Can anyone stand Robinson ? This cack handed, poorly (no thought) through idea was a gimmick. Anyone with an economic grasp rubbished it - a race to the bottom that, like the NI football team, was a loser from the off.

    Amateurs !

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    RoI's Corp tax cut was part of a wider strategy that including investing in education and infrastructure, our "leaders" just see it as a magic bullet and that won't work unless you do the other things. And it doesn't help that Cameron can't stand Robinson!

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Never mind all that tripe Mark, how many Ulster Unionists are going to defect from the party ? 178 at the last count. What a dogs dinner Nesbitt has made, he reminds one, of the David Steele puppet cowering to that trojan David Owen in the Spitting Image series, only on this occasion Peter has the unenviable task of tickling his feathers.



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