Differential corporation tax now looks like a definite runner

As Live blog is on standby, it’s  worth highlighting that George Osborne has just announced he will take part in a  consultation on a lower than a  23% UK corporation tax rate for N Ireland, based on a  paper out tomorrow. He emphasises  this is  due to the “unique” circustances of the Republic’s 12.5% rate (assuming this survives any revised bailout terms intact.) I guess this means lower corporation tax will now really happpen. But when and at what rate? It doesn’t seem like a quick rescue mission, more part of the 25 year time scale mentioned  for switching  emphasis from the public to the private sector. While the main aim no doubt will be to try to attract elusive foreign, mainly US direct investment to complement the  still thriving manufacturing base on the Republic, it will be time  for NI business  to put their money where their mouth is and display real energy and innovation and show they’re worth it.  

GB MPs, especially those from even poorer areas than NI  like the north east will look on this suspiciously. And I’ve just seen a Welsh MP calling for similar concessions forthe arguably underfunded principality. Stand by for lots of similar calls.

At the same time  the Chancellor announced 21 enterprise zones for England, details and locations to be announced tomorrow. These are areas due to enjoy a freeze on business rates and other small lollies. What’s happening  to the enterprise zone for the whole of N Ireland Cameron mooted in the election?  When  he and Business SecretaryVince Cable  announce the locations of the English zones, will they throw in a word or two about N Ireland? Or will it be left to FM and DFM to bask in the glory?

By the way the cut in fuel duty by 1 p a litre is unlikely to deter those  diesel bootleggers..

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London