Caoimhe Archibald: DUP should stop punishing people for its political mistakes
IN the 2016 referendum the majority of people here voted against Brexit. They did so largely because they wanted to avoid the economic damage that leaving the EU would cause.
Our democratic wishes and our economic interests were disregarded by the DUP which used its position of power in Westminster to pursue the hardest Brexit possible. The party knew that a hard Brexit would create the need for a border, and it gambled on that border being imposed in Ireland. So, the DUP rejected Teresa May’s attempts to deliver a soft Brexit and helped her replacement Boris Johnson come to power.
This proved to be a miscalculation. The EU and the US insisted on no border in Ireland and Boris agreed to the compromise of the Protocol. The Protocol protects the all-Ireland economy, but it also presents huge economic opportunities. The access it provides to the British and EU markets should be used to help local companies expand their exports. Dual market access should also be a unique selling point in our efforts to attract high-end FDI.
These economic benefits have been squandered by DUP economy ministers. Using the Protocol to attract investment and create jobs doesn’t fit the DUP’s narrative that the Protocol is damaging the economy. In support of this claim the DUP has cited numerous false statistics about the cost of the protocol. They referenced a back-of the envelope calculation by Esmond Birnie which has been widely ridiculed.
More recently Jeffrey Donaldson claimed a Department for Economy report on grocery prices shows that the Protocol has led to increased prices. In fact, the report shows that average grocery prices are 8 per cent lower here compared to Britain.
Despite DUP economy ministers failing to take advantage of its benefits, the Protocol is still protecting our economy. Just last week the National Institute for Economic and Social Research reported that the Protocol is helping the north’s economy outperform Britain’s.
The sensible way forward is to improve the implementation of the Protocol while making the most of the economic opportunities it presents. That is what the majority of people, businesses and MLAs elected to the Assembly want.
Instead, the DUP is continuing to act against the wishes and interests of the people here. It is blocking a budget which would provide an additional £1 billion for the health service. It is preventing the release of over £400 million to help families struggling to pay energy bills. And it is risking a disastrous trade war by joining with the Tory government’s threat to unilaterally rip up its treaty with the EU.
At every point the DUPs Brexit agenda has been malicious, reckless, and dishonest. Three quarters of those elected to the Assembly want to get back to work immediately to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and deal with hospital waiting lists. The DUP should stop punishing people for its political mistakes and let us get on with the job we were elected to do.
:: Caoimhe Archibald is Sinn Fein economy spokesperson