Owen Paterson is saying again today that the Assembly should take up tax varying powers and settle discussion over Corporation Tax themselves.
Mr Paterson said: “The basic facts are, if we can get this through, and we’ve got to persuade the Treasury and we’ve got to persuade the European Commission, so we have got quite a long way to go on this, but bluntly, we won’t get there if we don’t have enthusiasm from Northern Ireland.”
The pay off for the government is that they claw back £300million from the block grant, so this is understandably attractive for them. And in addition, Ireland’s next Taioseach told the Alliance Party conference on Saturday that he is in favour of all-island tax harmonisation.
As with all things of substance in Northern Ireland, little can happen without approval from external powers – so the signs are good. Northern Ireland’s political parties could get what they wished for. (And if the UCUNF project produced nothing else then it did secure a corporation tax commitment from the Tories which Paterson is now progressing.)
Paterson has now put it up to local parties to demonstrate their enthusiasm. In fact, they did so earlier this month. As the squabbling continues over the draft Budget, could this policy have the potential to bring the parties together?
(Sammy Wilson will need to be placated though. He hasn’t been convinced of low corporation tax argument for quite some time.)
In the corporation tax issue we now have a signal policy that can demonstrate to the public at large that local reps have the capacity to agree and to deliver. What will they do?
A next step could be for Jim Nicholson, Diane Dodds and Bairbre de Brun to publicly declare their willingness to push the case in Brussels. What will they do?