Saturday 21 April 2018

North is facing huge economic hit from Brexit - even in best case scenario

Belfast City Hall. Picture: Getty
Belfast City Hall. Picture: Getty

Shona Murray, Arj Singh and Sam Lister

Northern Ireland will suffer one of the biggest hits to economic growth after Brexit, studies warn.

Brexit impact studies reveal the North will see economic growth decline by between 2.5pc and 12pc depending on how the UK leaves the EU.

In a best-case scenario, where the UK stays in the single market, growth will drop by 2.5pc.

However, economic growth will fall by 8pc under the UK government's preferred outcome of a free trade deal with the EU.

In a worst-case scenario, growth will decline by 12pc if the UK leaves with no trade deal.

The studies, which were released to MPs, reveal the north east of England and the west midlands will be the worst hit. London will see the least damage.

The figures are likely to be seized upon by backers of a soft Brexit to protect the UK economy, as Prime Minister Theresa May holds crunch meetings of her inner 'war cabinet' of senior ministers today to thrash out what kind of trade relationship the UK will seek in negotiations.

In England's north east - the worst affected area - a free trade deal would result in an 11pc hit to growth, compared with 16pc under 'no deal', and 3pc if the UK stays in the single market.

By comparison, London would sustain just a 2pc hit to growth if the UK gets a free trade deal, 3.5pc in a no-deal scenario, and just 1pc if the country stays in the single market.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned the UK it won't be trusted in future trade deal talks if it reneges on its commitment to avoid a hard Border in the North.

There is growing concern in the Government that the UK could back out of the agreement made in December, with one source telling the Irish Independent "the latest signals from London are not encouraging".

Britain committed to keeping the majority of the EU's regulations in place after it leaves the EU in order to maintain a frictionless Border on the island of Ireland.

But opposition to the deal within Mrs May's ruling Tory party has set progress back this week.

Mr Varadkar yesterday warned the UK government its credibility will be in tatters if it rows back on its commitments.

"They would find it very hard to make any future agreements with Ireland, the European Union or anywhere else in the world if they try to depart from an agreement," he said.

"As far as I'm concerned, the joint report agreed in December contains commitments and guarantees. Those are the words used: commitments and guarantees.

"They are there in black and white and the UK government signed up to them, as did the European Union," he said.

The UK is now obliged to translate December's pledge into a legal text by March to ensure there is "no backsliding".

A Downing Street spokesperson told the Irish Independent "we remain absolutely committed" to the December deal.

Another source said: "The UK is not known for going back on international obligations."

Irish Independent

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