DUP ‘open’ to NI corporate tax rate of 10%, says Foster

Former first minister says she is committed to introducing 12.5% rate

Arlene Foster: “political stability has been a key factor when it comes to attracting foreign direct investment and jobs.” Photograph: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Arlene Foster: “political stability has been a key factor when it comes to attracting foreign direct investment and jobs.” Photograph: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

 

The DUP is “open to looking” at reducing the rate of corporation tax in Northern Ireland to 10 per cent, its party leader Arlene Foster has told the North’s business community.

The former first minister said she was committed to introducing a proposed new rate of corporation tax at 12.5 per cent as planned next year.

Yet because the UK government is considering lowering the rate in general following the EU referendum, the DUP could also support the introduction of a lower rate of corporation tax in the North.

However, Mrs Foster has warned that the introduction of a lower rate of corporation tax – whether it is 12.5 or 10 per cent – would not happen unless Stormont was “up and running”.

“It can’t be done under direct rule even if the willingness existed on the part of direct rule ministers,” Mrs Foster said in Belfast on Tuesday during the first of the “Five Leaders, Five Days” series which is a Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce initiative to give the leaders of the five main political parties an opportunity to outline their plans for the economy to business people ahead of the election next month.

Mrs Foster said the introduction of a new lower rate of corporation tax would also require “the political and drive to make it happen”.

“Let there be no doubt we will only get corporation tax rates reduced if Stormont is back and the DUP is in a strong enough position to ensure that it happens.

Better jobs

“Last May, creating more and better jobs with a target of 50,000 by 2021 was central to our five-point plan. We stand on that platform again. We worked hard to make sure we won the power to set corporation tax powers when others had given up. And if we are to put these new powers to use it will only be because we have continued to make it a priority.”

The DUP party leader said it was a “dangerous myth” that all parties in the previous Northern Ireland Executive “believe the same things on economic issues”.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Mrs Foster.

Although she said she was “wary” of talking politics before a business audience she did take the opportunity to point out that in her opinion the election was “about Gerry Adams reasserting control of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland”.

“By destabilising the political institutions, the impact is also to threaten the future economic prospects of Northern Ireland Plc because, as everyone in this room knows, political stability has been a key factor when it comes to attracting foreign direct investment and jobs.”

Mrs Foster also paid tribute to the role the business community in the North had played over the last 10 years in growing the local economy, and she said she acknowledged its frustration that an election was looming again just 10 months after the last one.

Frustrating

“Because we are in the pre-election period, or Purdah, we are now in a state of limbo in terms of making progress and getting on with the work – and I know there is nothing more frustrating than that for the business community. Believe me, I find it equally frustrating. It’s bad for business and bad for Northern Ireland.”

Mrs Foster said the economic achievements of the last decade were now at stake, as was the North’s seat at the table in the Brexit negotiations. Northern Ireland needed to be at the negotiating table to “get the right deal” and it also needed a stable government to let business “get on with creating jobs”.

Nick Coburn, president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, believes the upcoming election is the “most important for jobs and the economy in the history of Northern Ireland”, and that it was crucial there was a new executive in place as soon as it was over.

Next up in the “Five Leaders, Five Days” initiative is Mike Nesbitt, leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, on Wednesday.