Thursday 23 November 2017

Invest NI chief hails Brexit freedom from EU state aid rules

Invest NI’s Alastair Hamilton is ‘excited’ about changes
Invest NI’s Alastair Hamilton is ‘excited’ about changes

John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland will no longer be bound by EU laws and state aid rules that currently restrict attempts to attract inward investment once Brexit occurs, the head of Invest NI has said.

Alastair Hamilton has said that he is excited by that prospect and was already looking at how that would benefit the North and help to attract further international companies.

The Republic will still be bound by the rules, which ensure that Governments can't distort competition in such a way that would affect trade between EU member states.

"I am also excited by the fact that in exiting Europe, we will be released by some of the European laws and state aid laws that currently restrict some of the things we can do to support inward investment," Mr Hamilton said.

London has already reportedly threatened to slash its rate of corporate tax to 10pc if the European Union refuses to agree a post-Brexit free trade deal or blocks UK-based banks from accessing its market - which would be a potential blow to Ireland's 12.5pc offering.

Mr Hamilton, however, said that Northern Ireland may now not get a low rate of corporation tax until 2020.

In March, the 'Belfast Telegraph' revealed that a date of April 2018 for the tax "may slip", according to the Department of Finance. Earlier this month, Mr Hamilton acknowledged that the Northern Ireland economy was not likely to see the devolution of corporation tax until 2019.

Speaking on US television station CNBC, Mr Hamilton said: "Tax reform is coming. In terms of the manifestos in the UK, the main Conservative party will continue to reduce corporate tax. The campaign is on to reduce that to 17pc by 2020.

"We also have a proposition. We always want to stay ahead of the game. We have also just recently passed (an) agreement that would take our corporation tax down 12.5pc in the next two or three years."

That means the rate, due to be in place by 2018, may not happen until 2020.

"People (foreign investors) are not in Northern Ireland, they may be in the Republic of Ireland, for a tax differential, they are not in Northern Ireland for tax, we do not chase tax-sensitive projects.

"We did 60pc more new inward invest projects into Northern Ireland than we did the year previous.

"They are in Northern Ireland to get access to talent and people. That is not affected at all by the Brexit piece.

"We don't attract profit centres because we don't yet have a tax proposition as attractive as some other parts."

Speaking about Brexit, Mr Hamilton said: "There are two sides to this. What do those tariffs and trade deals look like post the negotiations. We have a very large agri-food industry, therefore there will be sensitivities around that."

Irish Independent

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