Interview with Arlene Foster: confirms 12.5% Corp Tax by April 2018 but coy about being First Minister

I interviewed Arlene Foster this afternoon and asked her to clear up the confusion between the DUP and Sinn Fein interpretations of Corporation Tax in the agreement.

No it’s not accurate and I think anybody that reads the Fresh Start agreement will see very clearly that the date and the rate have been set and that’s very deliberate because when business organisations speak to us and indeed when Invest NI talk to us, what they wanted was clarity and certainty in relation to the date and the rate so that they could go out and sell the proposition in relation to Northern Ireland. So, I mean that’s there and as far as we’re concerned that’s what it is and we’ll be selling it from now on.

On dealing with the past she said “it is hugely frustrating” that they could not get agreement on the issue.

On the budget:

“I do feel a sense of satisfaction at last that we have been able to deal with the financial issues, because we have been dealing with those financial issues for such a period of time”

Reflecting on Peter Robinson’s speech:

We all had tears in our eyes and I thought I held it together until he hugged me and then the tears start to come. He has been in politics and his decision to move on and I’m a party officer so I’ve known of his desire to move on for some time now. It’s a huge moment and it’s not just a huge moment for the party, for those of us who are close to him…it’s a huge moment for Northern Ireland.

On the outgoing leader’s legacy:

I think it’s been the stability that he has developed through devolution … he is a strong devolutionist … I think his legacy and what he is leaving behind in terms of the party is a very strong party with a depth of talent.

Arlene was coy when asked about becoming the next First Minister, but she recognises that the job involves a lot of heavy lifting and hard work. She told Slugger that it is up to others to decide whether they think she can do the job and that it is up to the party leader to decide who the First Minister is.

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  • Granni Trixie

    It’s difficult to reconcile someone like Arlene accepting such an autocratic system where so few decide who leads or is FM. Particularly if the party has ‘democratic’ in its name.

  • tmitch57

    So do North Korea and Vietnam in their official names and so did East Germany.

  • murdockp

    under robinson the DUP was essential a cult lead by as close to a normal person as the DUP could find with gravitas.

    the issue DUP have is having a leader who can act as an intermediary between religious fanatics and the rest of society.

    a very difficult job. Dodds is one of the fanatics so it won’t be him. Arlene is best placed to lead I feel.

  • Brian O’Neill

    There is not a chance that they will ever reduce corporation tax. It is complete wishonomics.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I think the DUP is still coming to terms with the idea that they would ever be electing a leader in the first place. Paisley would never have allowed a leadership challenge, or even the mechanism to bring one about.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Arlene is either showing contempt for the Assembly and the legislative procedures in Northern Ireland, or she is being misunderstood.

    She is obviously correct to say there is a clear commitment in the Fresh Start deal to implement the 12.5% rate of corporation tax in 2018.

    What she is not making clear is that that the deal is binding upon the Northern Ireland Executive only. The British government state, in the agreement, that they are proceeding on the terms agreed in Stormont House, which means that the corporation tax cut cannot go ahead until the Assembly has passed a resolution under the terms of the Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Act 2015 (see link here – search for “357IA” to see the relevant detail). The legislation states clearly that the resolution must be proposed by the Minister for Finance and Personnel, and that it must be passed by the assembly on a cross-community basis.

    According to the legislation, once the Northern Ireland Assembly agrees to reduce the rate of corporation tax, it “sticks”, ie the rate remains at that level until the Assembly passes another resolution to modify it further. This means that if some of us got cold feet and wanted to reinstate the old rate, this would also have to be passed on a cross community basis.

    The “contempt” part above is Arlene’s assumption that the makeup of the Assembly will permit the measure to go ahead. Clearly Arlene is confident that the 2016 Assembly election will not result in any significant change to what there is now.

    But the more serious part that everyone needs to take note of is that we’ve a pretty bad history here when it comes to people sticking to their agreements. The DUP reneged on the deal they made over the Maze, and SF reneged on a deal they made over welfare reform. The cross community vote requirement means that both the DUP and SF retain a veto on changing corporation tax. There is every possibility that SF will veto the change when they see the extent of the cuts to the block grant that are required to support it – especially when they realise that the change is effectively permanent and cannot be easily reversed.

    If I was a member of the business community I wouldn’t be making any plans that assume that the corporation tax devolution would go ahead until the resolution is passed by the assembly and the new rate shows up in the Belfast Gazette.

  • Granni Trixie

    Perhaps it is a failure in imagination on my part but the fact that the DUP do accept/tolerate the system marks them out as different and unlikely to be up to the job of leading the country forwards.

  • murdockp

    I don’t disagree. The issue for me is the UK with its higher corporation tax than ROI receives by a country mile the highest levels of FDI investment in Europe. See the enclosed report.

    If simple logic is then applied one can conclude that they do not choose the UK for its corporation tax rates, it is for other reasons.

    This is the bit the NI politicians don’t get. They think the investment failure is down to corporation tax. It is not. It is a load of other reasons, mainly red tape and our negative business culture, in particular most of our politicians are extreme left wing and are anti busines.

    Our politiicians efforts would be best served understanding why we are anti business and what can be done to change things around.

    Clearly corporation tax reform, helpul as it might be, is not the answer or even close to being the holy grail to our problems.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    While the regularisation of taxation policies between the members of the assembly of the wee six and their future home, the Dáil must be another indicator of the slow creep towards a United Ireland, it is still unquestionably yesterday’s politics. If the current efforts (“FATCA”) of the IRS to legally ensure access to every bank account worldwide in which any US national or company may be holding funds are successful, the value of the “double Irish” will soon become a thing of the past.

    All funds will be fully taxed in the jurisdiction in which profits are actually made, with none of the shifts of profit that mark US companies interest in having any Irish base and any company primarily active in US should find that its active members will be “double taxed” by the IRS, with tax applied on income and bonuses both in the jurisdiction where they operate outside of the US and within the US as US citizens, or even interestingly in the case of Irish and other Green Card holders, by the implacable IRS.

    The benefits of low extraterritorial tax levels for international companies are slowly being countered by changes in practice by national tax authorities, led by the IRS example. Perhaps, if ever this 12.5% fiasco comes to pass, all it will ensure is lower tax returns. This is what comes from having our finances decided by rank amateurs.

  • Kevin Breslin

    This is the same report that says Northern Ireland is outperforming the rest of the United Kingdom in terms of per capita Foreign Direct Investment?

    Why then is England, Scotland and Wales more anti-business than our lot? They are not lowering their wages enough and they are not attracting the higher levels of call center work that we are.

    These measurements are not based per capita, the only country in Western Europe that has a bigger population are Germany, and its indigenous industries reduce the requirement of FDI.

    Also, the measurement deals with a very different metric, putting ROI second only to Luxembourg.

  • David

    You missed the wrinkle in your headlined story.

    “As for corporation tax, we won’t be signing up to any cut unless we afford it and we won’t be able to afford it any time soon comrades.” [Sinn Féin Belfast City Council group leader Cllr Jim McVeigh]

  • barnshee

    Shurely not -not a republican ackowledging british bounty