The UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive have signed an agreement paving the way for a major investment conference, extra borrowing powers and allowing continued grant aid to local businesses.
‘Building a Prosperous and United Community’ was signed in Downing Street on the eve of the G8 summit. Prime Minister David Cameron plans to return to the province in October for the planned G8 Investment Conference.
The Executive will be allowed to borrow an additional £100 million for capital spending in 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, to support specific shared housing and education projects. The UK Government directly linked economic flexibility to progress on a shared future after the flags dispute and the economic pact followed OFMDFM’s shared future strategy in May.
Northern Ireland had been due to lose its 100 per cent assisted area status in 2014 but the Government agreed to allow this to continue until 2016.
Several pact commitments refer to tax relief, visa waivers and banking-related incentives as opposed to the previous reliance on the block grant.
“This agreement is a symbol of our ambitious vision for Northern Ireland,” said David Cameron, who envisaged “a genuinely shared society that is fulfilling its economic potential.”
Peter Robinson hoped that the pact would lessen the province’s financial dependence on Westminster while Martin McGuinness said that the plans were a “vote of confidence” in Stormont.