The Economic Logic of a United Ireland is Apparent
By Conor Murphy
Sinn Féin Finance Minister
The discussion on a New Ireland is often dominated by the question of how to best accommodate and respect different political and cultural identities on this island. However, the conversation is increasingly turning to our common economic interests.
That conversation has its modern roots in the early 1990s when civic and business leaders such as Sir George Quigley argued that regardless of how Ireland was governed, it made sense for such a small island to operate as a single economic unit.
All-Ireland trade subsequently flourished as a result of the EU single market and the cross-border institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement. Although this was to the mutual benefit of both parts of the island, economic performance diverged north and south. Average living standards soared in the south, while the north was tied to Britain's economic model and its problems of low productivity and low growth.
In this context unionism could not credibly argue that being part of Britain's economic model delivered a high growth rate. The best it could muster was that the fiscal deficit, which is created by the north's dependency on Britain's economic framework, would be unaffordable for the south.
A more rational response would be to improve the north's performance through an all-Ireland economic framework. This scenario was modelled by the eminent Professor Kurt Huebner. He showed that the growth unleashed by reunification would very quickly eliminate the fiscal deficit, creating substantial net gains for both parts of the island and particularly for the north.
The discussion has taken a further turn following the British Government's decision to leave the EU, the largest market in the world. The DUP used its leverage with Theresa May's government to resist a 'soft' Brexit which would have avoided hard borders right across the islands. Given the unacceptability of a border on the island of Ireland, the only alternative was a border in the Irish Sea.
The protocol is only starting to come into effect and many businesses are already reorientating their supply chains from Britain to Ireland and Europe.
As Britain further diverges from EU regulations it will become increasingly sensible for the north to return to full membership of the EU through a united Ireland. The English nationalism which drove Brexit is also heightening the British Government's economic focus on England, reinforcing the north's peripheral status.
For example EU funding previously provided to the north is being controlled by Whitehall and diverted to northern counties in England.The economic logic of reunification is increasingly apparent. Many people who previously wouldn't have even contemplated voting for a united Ireland are now giving it serious consideration.
This is a positive development. The conversation started by Sir George Quigley 30 years ago is on course to bring us to a more prosperous society, in which the people of this island manage our own economy in our own interests.