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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

All-island trade on the rise

Brexit has brought with it many consequences. While the DUP is politically a right-wing party that embraces a belief in Empire it primarily backed Brexit because it believed Brexit would result in a hard border on the island of Ireland. Jeffrey Donaldson was so determined to win Brexit that he dismissed the possibility of 40,000 jobs being lost and of significant damage to the agricultural industry because a hard border was for him more important.

The DUP ignored the democratic majority in the North who voted against Brexit and supported the Tories. They kept Theresa May in power for two years believing that she would deliver Brexit. When she faltered the DUP jumped ship and backed Boris. They nailed their colours to the mast of the European Research Group, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nigel Farage and others of that ilk. They voted against the single market and customs union. They back measures that directly attack the Good Friday Agreement and prevent a trade deal with the USA. The British economy is in trouble and the pro-Brexit faction appears set on a course that will result in a trade war with the EU.

In the midst of this chaos the international agreement negotiated by Boris Johnson with the EU – which he now rejects and is preparing to unilaterally break – has produced one bright spark. The North remains in the single market, as well as being part of the British customs territory and as a result is benefiting economically from this unique position.

According to the recent statistics from the Central Statistics Office in Dublin the strong trend in growing all-island trade is increasing.

Sinn Féin’s economy spokesperson in the Assembly Caoimhe Archibald MLA pointed out that: “Over the course of 2021 North to South trade in goods increased by £1.3 billion (65%) and South to North trade over the same period was up by £1.1 billion (54%).

“In the first three months of 2022 that trend has continued strongly, with North to South trade up by a further 34% or £250m compared to January-March 2021 and South to North trade by 49% or £312 million over the same period.

“This highlights the benefits and importance of the protections of the Protocol and the opportunities that exist which must be built upon. Three successive DUP economy ministers have ignored this potential.”

A report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) noted in May that the northern economy has outperformed the British average and is now at pre-pandemic levels. It said: “Northern Irish output, as measured by Gross Value Added (GVA) has slightly outperformed the UK average. This is partly an outcome of the Northern Irish Protocol and its special status in the Brexit arrangements, including better trade and investment conditions as part of the EU’s single market and customs union.”

Caoimhe Archibald said: “It is past time for playing politics and threats of unwarranted unilateral action from the British government which benefits no one and will in fact damage businesses and our economy. People want to see negotiated solutions on the implementation of the protocol.

“The DUP should end its boycott of the Assembly, the Executive and the north south bodies so we can put money into the pockets of workers and families struggling with the cost of living, put an additional £1billion into the health service and maximise the potential of the protocol to create jobs and prosperity.”

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