BELFAST — The post-Brexit trade protocol helps, not hurts, growth and profitability in Northern Ireland because of its advantageous access to EU markets, according to a UK economics think tank.
Wednesday’s findings from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research pour cold water on claims by Conservatives and Democratic Unionists that the protocol’s requirement for EU checks on British goods arriving in Ireland of the North has undermined trade opportunities.
As part of its latest quarterly UK economic outlook report, the London-based research group says available data shows the reverse to be true. It says Northern Ireland’s economic output “has slightly exceeded the UK average”.
“It’s partly the result of the Northern Ireland Protocol and its special status in the Brexit deals, including better terms for trade and investment under the EU’s single market and customs union. EU,” the report said.
“Closer links with the EU, through trade and also potentially labor mobility, have benefited Northern Ireland post-Brexit,” he added.
The Treaty Protocol between the UK Government and the European Commission, concluded in December 2019 as part of the wider Withdrawal Agreement, was designed to avoid the creation of a two-way customs and health border between Ireland North and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member with extensive and growing connections to the UK region.
Instead, the protocol requires one-way EU checks on UK goods arriving at Northern Ireland ports as a less disruptive and more easily enforced option. Crucially, the protocol also leaves manufacturers in Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, able to export barrier-free to all 27 EU countries.
But the UK government since March 2021 has refused to implement the full controls prescribed by the protocol and is currently threatening to reduce them further, citing alleged damage to Northern Ireland’s economy.
Democratic Unionists, who oppose the protocol because it makes it easier to trade goods with the Republic of Ireland than with the rest of the UK, say it has raised retail prices in Northern Ireland by 27% – a claim that is not supported by any publicly available data.
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