The Sunday Times carries a Liam Clarke interview with Peter Hain in which, among other points, the Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland expands, or rather contracts, the scope for his envisaged all-island economy, explicitly ruling out any variation in corporate taxation in NI as compared to the rest of the UK – “You can’t have a differential tax regime, whether it is corporation or petrol tax, across different regions of the United Kingdom.” – which was one of the points made last week by Alan Ruddock in his Sunday Times article on Hain’s disingenuous call, noted here previously.From the Sunday Times –
A key part of his strategy is increasing north/south co-operation and developing an all-Ireland economy, though he rules out two measures that have cross-party support in the province — reducing corporation taxes to southern levels or bringing the north’s high fuel taxes into line with the republic’s. “You can’t have a differential tax regime, whether it is corporation or petrol tax, across different regions of the United Kingdom.”
Despite that, he predicts: “There will be a lot more north/southery. Not gratuitous poking-unionists-in-the-eye north/southery, but common-sense practical north/southery to improve the quality of life and opportunities for people.
“The interpretation that this is a kind of Trojan horse for a united Ireland is 100% wrong. It is about whether the people of Northern Ireland are going to enjoy prosperity and opportunity in the future.”
Some of what he has in mind may be too much for the Irish government, from which Hain expects help to shoulder the burden of building up the north’s private sector. He suggests that Dublin use its muscle to secure inward investment for the north and even encourages Irish companies to transfer some of their operations across the border.
“There is recognition in the south that that is the way to go,” Hain insists. “Just as, for example, you have British and Irish companies establishing themselves in China and India and eastern Europe without necessarily losing jobs at home, I can see the opportunity for businesses in the republic, where skills are now short because it is overheated, actually seeing advantages in relocating part of their businesses north of the border.
“I was talking to the Irish foreign minister, Dermot Ahern, about the common marketing of the island of Ireland to investors, where we were not seeking to do each other down but were seeking to maximise international investment either side of the border, and particularly for the republic to use its clout in Irish/America to get investment up north.”