Flying between Belfast and New York could get a whole lot cheaper if the Northern Ireland Executive has its way.
British Chancellor George Osborne was in Belfast in recent days to listen to Stormont leaders who want Corporation Tax in the North brought into line with the Republic of Ireland.
But the issue of air passenger duty - which is considerably more expensive in Northern Ireland - was alsoraised, with the powers-that-be at Stormont hopeful that it could also be lowered to southern levels.
First and deputy first ministers, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, told the chancellor that the level of duty is too high in the North and is forcing travelers to use Dublin airport, thus threatening Belfast’s only transatlantic route, United/Continental’s service to Newark.
Stormont now wants to set its own rate, the chancellor was told.
“Passenger duty, I understand, is an important issue here,” said Mr. Osborne.
“I am well aware of the particular geographic challenge you have in Northern Ireland with the proximity of the airport in Dublin and the importance also of the air link with the United States of America and that Continental flight, and we are at the Treasury consulting on the future of air passenger duty.
“That consultation ends today and we have talked about views that the Executive has about that.”
Mr. Osborne also said that he had received a very clear message from his meeting with Northern Ireland’s political leaders that the lowering of Corporation Tax from 26 percent to 12.5 percent - the level that is applied in the Republic - would help regenerate the North’s economy by enticing inward investment and helping local companies create more jobs.
“I wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t have had a Treasury paper if we didn’t think it was an idea worthy of very, very serious consideration,” Osborne said inside Stormont Castle.
He said he would consider the proposals over the coming months.
“I think a reasonable period of time is to consider this over the summer and in the autumn give you our response, and that’s what we intend to do,” he said.