Northern Ireland news

Living standards 20 per cent higher in Northern Ireland than Republic

Dr Graham Gudgin said the gap may help explain why polls show a huge margin in favour of maintaining the union

LIVING standards are 20 per cent higher in Northern Ireland than the Republic, according to a Cambridge University academic.

Dr Graham Gudgin said the gap may explain why polls show a huge margin in favour of maintaining the union.

An honorary research associate at the University of Cambridge and visiting professor at Ulster University, Dr Gudgin compared living standards in an article for Queen's Policy Engagement.

He said the comparison would likely prompt "the next wave of united Ireland excitement".

Dr Gudgin, who served as a special adviser to David Trimble, claimed if the Republic were to "rejoin the UK", it would be as its poorest region.

He wrote that the view of the Northern Ireland economy from southern economists had been "jaundiced and self-serving".

John Fitzgerald and Edgar Morgenroth of Trinity College and ESRI in Dublin, described it as "lacklustre, lacking dynamism and low productivity", he noted.

In their view, Brexit left Northern Ireland facing a serious negative impact.

The necessary context, he wrote, was that the UK had become the world's leading exporter of services. Even if Northern Ireland had not fully shared in this transition, most of its inward investment was in services, including legal services and cyber-security, he said.

The north's economy had grown at exactly the UK average growth rate, he added.

"If we use a well-accepted measure of living standards, spending by households and by government on behalf of households, then the data in the Republic is much more accurate. Fitzgerald and Morgenroth used this measure to calculate that living standards were 20 per cent higher in Northern Ireland in 2012," Dr Gudgin wrote.

"When they updated this using data for 2016 their figure was 4 per cent. They did not however allow for lower prices in Northern Ireland, especially house prices, which mean that households in Northern Ireland get more goods and services for any given amount of spending. When this correction is made, living standards again emerge as closer to 20 per cent higher in Northern Ireland.

"This result is staggering. It means that after 60 years as a tax haven and 48 years inside the EU, the Republic of Ireland has not managed to raise the living standards of its people to that in Northern Ireland."

While tax haven status and EU membership had worked for the Irish elite, he added, the majority of citizens had gained little.

"There is little reason to doubt that, even after all that has happened over recent decades, living standards are higher in the north than in the south. This may help to explain why the rigorous polls show a huge margin in favour of maintaining the union," he said.

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