Northern Ireland

DUP and Orange Order claims about impact of protocol dismissed by independent verifiers as 'cherry picking'

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

CLAIMS that the protocol is forcing up the cost of living in Northern Ireland are unfounded or exaggerated, according to independent verification.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, his party colleague Ian Paisley and Orange Order Grand Secretary Mervyn Gibson are among those who have claimed the post-Brexit trade arrangements have sent costs soaring compared to Britain.

Sir Jeffrey told last month's pre-election BBC NI Leaders’ Debate that the protocol meant consumers on this side of the Irish Sea were paying "four per cent more per item".

The Lagan Valley MP also stated that shoppers in the north were paying eight per cent more for dairy products and 19 per cent more for chilled convenience goods compared to their counterparts in Britain.

Both Mr Paisley and Rev Gibson have claimed that the protocol has led to a 27 per cent increase in costs.

In detailed analysis of the remarks, FactCheckNI concludes that there was little or no supporting evidence for the claims.

On Sir Jeffrey's assertions, the verifiers concluded some are "plainly inaccurate while some look at least arguably accurate".

They note that a report from analysts Kantar commissioned by the Department for the Economy supports two of the DUP leader's claims.

"The report, however, undermines the third and most notable of his assertions," Fact Check NI said.

"He claimed consumers in NI are paying four per cent more per item than people in GB, but the Kantar analysis says that 'the average total grocery price in GB was eight per cent higher than in NI'."

In scathing assessment of the DUP leader's claims, FactCheckNI said: "Cherry picking facts to suit a narrative is one of the mainstays of the modern age of mis- and dis-information. Rarely, however, is it quite this brazen."

On the claims made by Mr Paisley on Radio Ulster's Nolan Show, FactCheckNI noted that when written down the North Antrim MP's remarks were a "bit of a mess", prompting them to seek clarification from the DUP, which said the 27 per cent figure was "based on research conducted and provided by the Road Haulage Association (RHA)".

FactCheckNI contacted the RHA but the group has yet to respond. They did, however, speak to Logistics UK, which said that there has been no full survey looking at costs associated with protocol compliance, and that the experience of small numbers of haulage firms was not necessarily representative of any wider trends.

The spokesperson also explained that higher haulage costs had also been driven by increased fuel, ferry and labour costs.

"The only way this claim might be true is if the price of everything was raised by 27 per cent or more due to indirect effects from the protocol," the verifiers said.

"There is currently no evidence that this is the case."

They concluded that for the same reasons, the claim made by Rev Mervyn Gibson is also "inaccurate".

The DUP was contacted.