FOUR SENIOR Stormont Executive Ministers are in London today for last ditch talks on cutting corportation tax.
Peter Robinson, Martin McGuinness, Sammy Wilson and Arlene Foster will pitch their case to Treasury officials at Westminster.
Governmemt bean counters are yet to be convinced that bringing Notthern Ireland’s corporation tax into line with the Republic’s will be a job winner for the province.
Devolving the tax cutting power to the Executive could be a step too far for the Treasury.
However, the Executive is convinced that it can lures millions of pounds in inward investment and at least 2,000 jobs.
Northern Ireland needs fresh inward investment. The dole gueue is getting longer – 200 more signed on last month bringing the unemployment total to 63,400.
And they will be getting longer when up to 1,000 workers at F G Wilson engineering are laid off.
However, devolving the tax cutting power will come at a price to the Stormont Executive.
Under European Rules, any part region that can vary coporation taxes must also compensate central government if any tax revenue is lost.
And the Treasury – who set the rules in Northern Ireland – have come up with a formula that would squeeze Stormont’s budget.
The Treasury estimated that initially the cost of cutting corporation tax would be £400 million a year and above.
However, after a few years the cost to Stormont’s budget would be £700m annually.
The Ministers will have a tough job today trying to convince the Treasury who have never been in favour of devolving corportation tax-cutting powers to the region.
But former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson and a kind hearted Chancellor George Osborne have played their part in pressing the Executive’s case.
And if all else fails, the Executive could call in the support of Prime Minister David Cameron who is sympatheic to the Northern Ireland cause.
His new Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers will not be far away today as the negotiations take place in Westminster.