Robinson welcomes tax cut plan for North
The British government unveiled proposals to overhaul corporation tax in Northern Ireland yesterday to allow the region to compete with the Republic.
Corporation tax across the border is twice the rate in the Republic but this could change after the five main party leaders at Stormont and Northern Secretary Owen Paterson launched a consultation to discuss whether it makes sense for the North to woo multinationals with lower taxes.
The snag for the North's politicians is that the British government plans to cut the block grant the Stormont executive receives from the British exchequer if corporation tax is reduced.
First Minister Peter Robinson welcomed the consultation as a good news day for Northern Ireland.
"It is not in the interests of Northern Ireland to be the beggars of the UK. It is not in the interests of Northern Ireland to be dependent on the exchequer for further new growth within our own economy," Mr Robinson said.
He added that Northern Ireland should become a contributor rather than relying on handouts.
"It is not a done deal but we are now talking about the detail rather than the principle and that is real progress," he added.
Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said the consultation reflected the commitment to meeting economic challenges which Northern Ireland faces, including the legacy of the conflict and the region's proximity to the low-tax Republic.
"It may well be the case that a lower rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland can play a significant part in helping to strengthen the economy," he said.
He added: "This consultation is a real opportunity for the people of Northern Ireland to talk this issue through, to balance these costs and risks with the potential transformative effects of lower corporation tax rates.
"It is a chance for Northern Ireland to set its own principles and priorities and to play a more direct role in determining the competitiveness of its economy."
The North's executive finance minister Sammy Wilson said the UK government's consideration of the benefits anticipates a single increase in the level of investment here in the early years and not the increasing investment and growth year-on-year that other commentators have predicted.