Leaked Brexit analysis paints bleak economic picture

The leaked report listed Northern Ireland as one of three regions facing the biggest falls in economic performance

THERE have been calls to mitigate Brexit's impact on Northern Ireland after a leaked British government analysis painted a bleak picture of life outside the European Union.

Sinn Féin said the “EU Exit Analysis – Cross Whitehall Briefing” document highlighted the need for the north to secure special status, while the SDLP called for the UK to abandon its "hard Brexit crusade".

But DUP MP Sammy Wilson dismissed the research, claiming it was part of "the war of attrition" waged by those opposed to Brexit.

The analysis, drawn up for the Department for Exiting the EU and seen by the BuzzFeed News website, found economic growth would be lower under a range of potential scenarios.

It listed Northern Ireland, alongside England's north-east and west Midlands, as one of three regions facing the biggest falls in economic performance – before even considering the possibility of a hard border.

The analysis found that even if the UK was able to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement, as the British government hopes, it estimated growth would be down 5 per cent over the next 15 years.

That would rise to eight per cent if Britain left without a deal and was forced to fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

Alternatively, if the UK were to retain access to the single market through membership of the European Economic Area the loss would be just two per cent

A British government source said the analysis had studied the impact of a series of "off-the-shelf" agreements but had not considered Prime Minister Theresa May's preferred option of a "bespoke" agreement.

Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said the research findings were not surprising.

"Report after report has shown that Brexit will hit the economy, particularly here in the north of Ireland," she said.

"What this report does show, however, is that the British government were and are aware of the huge damage Brexit will do and are ploughing on regardless."

SDLP Brexit spokeswoman Claire Hanna said the document showed how "all Brexit paths lead to suppressed economic growth and hardship".

She called for the Tory government to pursue continued membership of the European single market and Customs Union.

"The leak of this analysis is an embarrassment for an embattled government that has run out of ideas and is now running out of time," the South Belfast MLA said.

"The forecasts reveal that we'll be worse off under every single scenario modelled, the only question is the scale of economic suppression we'll be forced to endure."

But East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson, whose party supported the Brexit campaign, described the analysis as "propaganda" peddled by "those who wish to keep the UK inside the EU".

"According to the same departments and economists who produced this report, by now unemployment should have soared, house prices should have plummeted, interest rates should have risen, the stock market should have collapsed, industrial production should have been decimated, banks should have been in crisis and we should have had an emergency budget which put up taxes reduced spending and increased borrowing – the fact is not only did these things not happen but all the exact opposite occurred," he said.

"We have the lowest unemployment for decades, house prices continue to rise indeed the government is looking at how the increases can be dampened, interest rates are still low, the stock market is higher than it has ever been, industrial output has increased because of the more competitive pound, banks haven't collapsed or fled the country in fact new banks are setting up in the UK, and there was no emergency budget in fact extra money has been found for NI."

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