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Retail NI calls for economy reform at Westminster

Glyn Roberts, CEO of Retail NI addresses a packed terrace at the House of Commons.

The voice of the retail industry in Northern Ireland has led the call for a reboot of economic policy in Northern Ireland.

Joining forces with Hospitality Ulster and Manufacturing NI, Retail NI co-hosted a Northern Ireland economy reception at the House of Commons, with over 200 MPs, Peers, Diplomats and local business owners in attendance.

Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Tony Lloyd MP, Shadow Secretary of State, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP and Paul Maskey MP all addressed the event where a comprehensive policy document entitled ‘A New Deal for Northern Ireland’ was launched.

Created by Retail NI, Manufacturing NI and Hospitality Ulster, ‘A New Deal For Northern Ireland’, outlines a range of areas needing urgent attention from Westminster in order to boost Northern Ireland’s economy and increase productivity levels.

One of the central asks outlined in the New Deal document calls for Westminster to set a firm date of April 2021 for the introduction of a Northern Ireland rate of Corporation Tax. Meanwhile, the three business groups headed up by Colin Neill, Glyn Roberts and Stephen Kelly, have asked that the £300 million earmarked to fund Corporation Tax to have been originally in place for April 2018, to be reinvested in skills, infrastructure and a radical extension of the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme

The Chief Executives of the three business organisations, Glyn Roberts, Colin Neill and Stephen Kelly said:

“Despite our political difficulties at Stormont, our central message at this event is that Northern Ireland has a vibrant business community which is still very much open for business. We have a shared ambition of making Northern Ireland the best place in the UK to shop, socialise and to start or locate a business.

“As we approach 600 days of no Government we need to see action.  Our New Deal report sets out how we can achieve this ambition.

“Northern Ireland is falling behind and it’s time decision-takers and policy-makers act to introduce radical change to our failing economic policy. We believe that redistributing some of the money earmarked for Corporation Tax to skills, infrastructure and struggling small businesses will help to stimulate major economic growth.

“Rates Reform is absolutely critical to the future of the economy. Many small traders are struggling to pay their rate bills and we are calling for the largest ever rate relief of £100 million to support our town and city centres and to ensure small business owners can reinvest more of their own money into growing their business and employing more staff

“What’s more, we are asking for Northern Ireland’s infrastructure to be modernised and special attention paid to ensuring we have the right skills in the pipeline. Only when this is done, will Northern Ireland be in the position to attract Foreign Direct Investment and ready to benefit from a reduced rate of Corporation Tax in 2021.

“We want to see a major overhaul of the regulatory issues blocking business owners from reaching their full potential.

“For too long businesses have been thwarted by outdated legislation, increasing rates, soaring energy prices and high employment policy costs. It’s time the government created an enabling taxation and regulatory environment for businesses in order to help them grow. Crucially, we need to see modernisation of our licensing laws, a reduction of Tourism VAT, abolition of APD and the introduction of Tourism Enterprise Zones where specific incentives are developed with the aim of doubling the GDP of tourism in Northern Ireland.

“Business owners west of the Bann should be given the same opportunities as their eastern-counterparts. It’s as simple as that yet many businesses there are still dealing with slower broadband speeds, poor road networks and a general lack of infrastructure and tourism development in this area. We want Westminster to step in and balance the playing field.”

“We fully support City Deals for Belfast and Derry/Londonderry but we also need to ensure our rural towns get a fair deal by Government introducing a Rural Town Investment Fund.

“We’re adamant that Brexit cannot have negative consequences on trade in these parts, especially in border areas. It is imperative that Westminster guarantees the protection of free movement of people, goods and services from RoI to the UK and vice versa and that Northern Ireland is positioned as an important bridge between the UK and the rest of the EU post March 2019.”

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