MARCH really has been a most peculiar month. Spring officially sprung.
A couple of days later winter decided that it hadn’t had a good enough run and came back for the most extreme lap of honour in years. Some people taking themselves off for a normal short break to the sun found Cyprus shut.
As the world was turning all unpredictable it was good to know that Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness were getting into the headmaster’s study in Downing Street to resolve the longstanding issue of lowering the corporation rate in Northern Ireland. As the Secretary of State had trumpeted recently this was to be a significant meeting.
As it happened the meeting only served to prove that bad things do come in threes. April Fools Day turned up in March. Headmaster Cameron quite simply sent our boys home without any hope about being able to reduce corporation tax rates. He even clipped them round the ears for not having done enough to crystallise the shared future for us all here.
There must have been some interesting language coming from our First and Deputy First Ministers when they left London. Ironically the Prime Minister of our United Kingdom probably united our top unionist and our top nationalist in common disappointment and indignation. Maybe that’s what our shared future is supposed to look like.
The ambition to reduce corporation tax here to 12½% in order to allow us to compete with our cross border rivals is like the ambition for world peace. No one can be against it. In reality of course it’s never going to happen.
David Cameron can prevaricate and tell us that he can’t make a decision until the Scots have had their independence referendum. He can talk about the complexities of the issue and the pitfalls of operating different tax systems across a United Kingdom.
I reckon that‘s just David Cameron blowing smoke. Why would any party leader in Great Britain create a situation a few miles away which could encourage businesses in the constituencies of their own members of parliament to relocate?
If corporation tax here was reduced I don’t imagine that we would see a sudden influx of major overseas businesses. What we would be more likely to see are business addresses slipping from one part of the United Kingdom to the other purely for a hope of financial gain. Why would any politician with enough power to decide on corporation tax volunteer to create a situation which could take investment out of his colleague’s constituencies and make it less likely that new investment would arrive there.
Long before any actual impact could be measured that politician would have to answer serious political questions which I think he would find very difficult to answer.
Political considerations always trump other influences or arguments in the world of politics. In Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness we have two very able and clever politicians. They must know that the politics of the corporation tax question will destroy it. They should admit that the idea is never going to work. That might allow everyone to focus on the reality of our actual economy rather than the dream of a more enticing economy later.
Shakespeare warned Ceasar to beware the Ides of March. Particularly this March I think we should beware ideas in March.