Monday 26 April 2010

Bypassing the heart of the union

The UUP like to pretend that their link-up with the English Tories will put Northern Ireland at the 'heart of the UK'. There are clearly neither geographers not anatomists in UCUNF.

But the UCUNF manifesto (basically the Tory manifesto with a few additional words) makes clear that not only will Northern Ireland not be 'at the heart of the union', it will be practically a heart bypass:
"Conservatives and Unionists will therefore look at turning Northern Ireland into an economic enterprise zone. A Conservative and Unionist Government will produce a government paper examining the mechanism for changing the corporation tax rate in Northern Ireland, in order to attract significant new investment."

Regional policy in any country can, of course, lead to variations in government support, but to actually designate Northern Ireland as an economic enterprise zone would definitely mark it out as different, a place apart, and quite dis-united from Britain. The fact that the overt intention is to align Northern Ireland with "a country that has a significantly lower rate of corporation tax" (i.e. the south) simply emphasises the gap between Northern Ireland and Britain, and its proximity in geographic as well as economy terms, with the rest of Ireland!

The Tories are preparing Northern Ireland for full participation in the all-Ireland economy by proposing an alignment of its tax rates with those of the south, rather than 'uniting' them with those of Britain.

There is, of course, no more logical reason why Northern Ireland should mimic the south's corporation tax rate any more than Wales, Scotland or Cornwall should. Mere geographic proximity is irrelevant when both jurisdictions are trading in global markets. If UK corporation tax rates are too high, then they're too high for all – if they are 'correct', then Northern Ireland's problems lie elsewhere, either in its cost structures or in its peripherality. And other regions share those problems.

The reality is that this is just an election gimmick – nothing concrete will come of it – because if Northern Ireland was to become an economic enterprise zone with a specially low corporation tax rate then the Tories would have just ripped up their Act of Union with Scotland, and probably handed Plaid Cymru a massive boost as well.

So while the Tories will "look at turning Northern Ireland into an economic enterprise zone" they will not do it. There are only two real options for getting Northern Ireland out of its economic doldrums – old-fashioned hard work and enterprise or reunification with the south. This blog supports both.


Anonymous said...

Sammy Mc Nally says,

Horseman, lets hope you are wrong, if the Northern Irish territories are to have lower corpo rates then presumably that may happen under the umbrella of Stormo - and any movement away from Westminster should be welcomed by Nationalists.

It has long luzzled me why Hume and Trimble didnt ask for these powers initially - after all if the Plain People of the Northern Iirish Territories could be allowed to decide their constitutional fate then they should surely have been allowed to decide their fiscal fate.

Horseman said...

Sammy Mc Nally,

It's a pretty small step from fiscal independence to full independence. I'm pretty sure Trimble didn't want that (in 1998 anyway - maybe he did when he was in Vanguard).

He knew NI couldn't fly on its own, so if not London, then there was only Plan B ....

Anonymous said...

Sammy Mc Nally says,

Horseman, strange though no noises from anyone about it - Tory policy now very similar to SF policy on this matter?

Wonder if the UUP will try to keep the ability to change the corpo rate with Westminster - otherwise fenians could alter it to suit island as a whole and UUP would no longer be able to claim credit when it was changed as it would be devolved.

menace said...

As I recall there was, in 1998, talk of a unified, national corporation tax rate, supported by SDLP/SF and our own government, it was said at the time this was opposed by the Unionist parties as it would have been too akin to re-unification, perhaps they were then, not so interested in the half-crown rather than the crown.
Now, it will, for reasons above, be more difficult to secure, the talk in 1998 was, with the hype connecting to the outbreak of peace, that the EU Commission would permit such anomaly despite jurisdictional issues.
This is no longer the case, which confuses matters a little however, the point is, 12 years later, 2 years into an economic downturn which will last for some time, the people in Ireland have the looser's especially in this part of the country, please advise those seeking electoral support of their previous folly this time round, we lost tens of thousands of jobs and millions in income which will now, never be regained.

Anonymous said...

Sammy Mc Nally says..


surely in 1998 Nationalists should (tactically) only have sought the power to alter corpo rates rather than try to harmonise them.

Still the point about SF and the Tories stands they both appear to want to vary Corpo rates in Norn Iron - the question is would the power to do would ultimately reside in Stormo or Westminster.

menace said...

Sammy, I hope it would rest in Kildare St.

Anonymous said...

"look at turning Northern Ireland into an economic enterprise zone."

Northern Ireland cannot have a different tax rate to Great Britain. EU rules.