Bell: How island can help Britain

CLOSER TIES?: Chief Minister Allan Bell with Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls at last week's Labour Party conference

CLOSER TIES?: Chief Minister Allan Bell with Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls at last week's Labour Party conference

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THE Isle of Man is well placed to become a tax-neutral base for the importation of Chinese goods into the UK and Europe.

That’s one of the ideas being explored as part of a new push to strengthen trade links between the island and the North West of England.

Peel Holdings, headed by island resident John Whittaker, has plans to develop Liverpool docks as a hub for the importation of Chinese goods into the UK.

And Chief Minister Allan Bell believes the Isle of Man has the potential to link in with this to provide the administrative and tax back up to the operation.

He was speaking after returning from the Labour Party conference in Manchester where he heard Ed Miliband’s keynote ‘One Nation’ speech and also had informal discussions with members of the shadow cabinet including Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls MP and Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne MP and well as Labour peers and senior policy advisors.

Mr Bell said he used this trip to get the message over that the island is more than just a finances services centre and it plays a key role in supporting the British economy, and particularly the North West – a prime example being the way the Isle of Man Aerospace Cluster works in collaboration with the North West Aerospace Alliance.

‘At a time when the UK Government is focusing all its efforts on returning growth to the economy, it is crucial that we highlight the positive contribution we can make,’ he said.

He said he had ‘productive and practical’ discussions with Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, and Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, on how links between the island and political and business communities in the North West region could be strengthened.

Mr Bell told the Examiner he believed that engagement with the North West has been one area the Manx government has neglected in the past and we could build on the links we have with significant investors in the North West like John Whittaker.

He explained: ‘There is a potential for developing a more co-operative strategy. The Isle of Man could be seen as a support line to the North West economy. A number of areas are being considered at the moment including developing links with China to use the Isle of Man as a tax neutral base for the importation of goods in the UK and EU. Peel Holdings have plans to develop Liverpool docks as a strong competitor to the South Coast docks, with Liverpool becoming a hub for the importation of Chinese goods. That could mean the island getting administrative benefits.’

He said the leaders of both Liverpool and Manchester City Councils were ‘very keen’ to explore this further.

Mr Bell said the Isle of Man was treated as part of the EU for VAT purposes. All VAT would be passed to the relevant tax authorities and using the island. ‘There is no question of anyone losing out,’ he said.

The island had a somewhat fraught relationship with the last Labour administration over issues such as the Reciprocal Health Agreement and revision of the VAT deal.

Mr Bell, who will also be attending the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham with Education Minister Tim Crookall, added: ‘It is crucial for the Isle of Man to be represented at the autumn conferences, not only to develop our relationships with the UK’s main political parties but also to get a feel for the prevailing mood music in British politics. By attending the party conferences we can continue to target our messages at the right people in the right places.’

He added: ‘Overall, the Isle of Man was very well received at the conference and I am confident that we will continue to build a positive working relationship with the Labour leadership.’

At the Labour Party conference, Mr Bell also had a meeting with Lord Beecham who has taken over as the Shadow Minister for the Crown Dependencies.

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