A manifesto to make NI prosper: end corporate tax, restore rail and invest
However, less attention has been paid to equally serious issues in Northern Ireland which still need to be addressed.
It’s an uncomfortable truth, but much of the problem with Northern Ireland lies in Westminster. Institutionalized neglect over the past decades by Labor and Conservative governments has brought the region to where it is today.
How do you know Northern Ireland has been overlooked? Easy. Find out how long it takes to travel between just about any city in the province and Belfast by public transport.
The results will shock you. It is faster to get from Belfast to London than from Londonderry. The 70 mile trip through the province takes two hours and twenty minutes.
That’s an average speed of 30 miles per hour. Traveling in Victorian England was faster. It is this kind of neglect that has made Northern Ireland the UK’s biggest ‘loss-making’ economy. But it really doesn’t have to be that way.
Northern Ireland is a classic example of why the race to the top that the Prime Minister talks about so frequently and emotionally requires urgent application here.
There are a few simple things the Prime Minister could do. First, Boris Johnson needs to make sure corporate taxes are cut.
The Chancellor is wrong to increase corporate tax. This will hit Northern Ireland particularly hard and is economically illiterate.
There is already a huge gap in tax rates between Ireland and Northern Ireland. No businessman would open a business in Belfast where the corporate tax rate is 19% and rising, if he could perform as well in Dublin where it is 12.5%, with breaks for lower this rate further.
The island of Ireland has complete freedom of movement. Unless there was an urgent need to be in Belfast, most would choose Dublin any day of the week.
The government has stood idly by and watched businesses flock to Dublin. Imagine the difference in Northern Ireland’s fortunes if Apple had chosen to reside in Belfast instead.
The corporate tax rate in Northern Ireland should be reduced – ideally to zero.
Taxes on consumption and workers should also be reduced. The most obvious taxes to reduce would be VAT, stamp duties, fuel taxes and national insurance contributions for low earners.
Consumers also need a helping hand. Combining these two fiscal policies would be a powerful cocktail of growth.
There should be an immediate supply of capital to facilitate the investment that a favorable tax regime would generate. Special financing programs for the province’s banks should be launched, with the promotion of unsecured business loans for investment.
Along with tax reform and increased money supply, there should be a reduction in bureaucracy. Paperwork should be cut. Facilitate obtaining urban planning permits on brownfields to build housing and hire people.
Crucially, the province is in desperate need of a proper rail network, which would also get many cars off our roads. Rural areas need better digital connectivity. An economy cannot move forward without the ability to easily travel and communicate.
Finally, invest in Belfast. Make it a first-class, interconnected and fun city to live and work in. For
Northern Ireland to be successful, Belfast must.
Northern Ireland should have at least one world-class university. Queen’s University is good, but it could beat the world.
This would attract the dynamic and ambitious start-ups that businesses need and ensure that more of our brightest young people stay in Northern Ireland.
The task is really simple enough, but the government must seize the opportunities and the office in Northern Ireland must start pushing radical policies rather than always wanting to keep everything under wraps.
With the debilitating effects of the Northern Ireland protocol, it’s doubly important that the government stop viewing the province as an economically problematic burden and start making plans to make it a tiger economy. Nothing would strengthen our union more than a vibrant and prosperous Northern Ireland.
Unfortunately, the above is, at least for now, a dream. Unfortunately, this government, like the previous ones, seems to care little about Northern Ireland.
He is not even ready to take the protective measure of invoking Article 16 of the protocol – allowing the UK to unilaterally take action against the agreement – in the face of the recognized societal and economic damage caused by the protocol.
If he does not act to protect the people of Northern Ireland, he certainly will not act to raise them.
So, Lord Frost, let’s start with small steps – invoke article 16.
l Ben Habib is a former Brexit Party MEP and Kate Hoey is a former Labor MP
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