Mon 20th Nov 2017
NI Chamber: Chancellor must resist calls for short-term giveaways during vital Autumn Budget
Ann McGregor, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) has called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to “resist calls for short-term giveaways, and focus his firepower on big measures that address the long term, structural issues which continue to thwart investment, productivity and growth across the UK including Northern Ireland.”
NI Chamber Chief Executive Ann McGregor made the comments ahead of the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget on Wednesday which comes at a critical moment for the UK economy as the region prepares to formally leave the European Union.
Ms McGregor said:
“Wednesday’s Budget is more vital than most as the Government must set the foundations of our economy post-Brexit. Whilst of course businesses want the best possible Brexit deal, if we don’t create the conditions for growth at home, businesses won’t be in a position to meet the challenges, or take advantage of the opportunities, of our new place outside the EU.
“This includes tackling the ever-higher up-front cost of doing business. Costs such as the Apprenticeship Levy, which is particularly challenging for Northern Ireland and managing the pension system via auto-enrolment for example, are putting increasing pressure on firms large and small and, taken together, dampen their ability to invest and recruit.
“The Chancellor must therefore take big and bold action to incentivise firms to invest. At the moment, we’re seeing business investment lag, as firms hesitate to take the plunge while so much uncertainty remains. As we move through the EU negotiations and a transition period, the Treasury must encourage and support firms to put money back into their firms through investment, which in turn will raise wages and living standards for us all.”
Relating to investment, Ms McGregor also said measures to devolve corporation tax for Northern Ireland must move forward, with an update on Northern Ireland’s corporation tax status expected at the Autumn Budget as referred to in the DUP and Conservatives deal: “The Northern Ireland Executive had intended to cut the corporation rate from the UK-wide 20 per cent to 12.5 per cent in 2018 after securing the tax-setting power from Westminster but the process has been stalled for some time. This has been primarily due to budget priorities but the current deadlock between political parties which has left Northern Ireland without a devolved administration has delayed it further.
“The concern is that the proposed implementation date of April 2018 may now slip and that would be a significant blow to the Northern Ireland economy as the cut in the level of corporation tax is intended to encourage inward investment, create jobs and compete with the Republic of Ireland’s rate.”
“We therefore eagerly await the options paper on the issue which is due to be prepared for the Autumn Budget.”