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.