Northern Ireland news

Conor Murphy: DUP Brexit dishonesty masks their real agenda

Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy

STATISTICS cited by the DUP in support of its claim that the protocol is damaging the economy have been examined by independent researchers. The findings are devastating.

One statement considered by FactCheckNI was Jeffrey Donaldson’s assertion that “due to the protocol, consumers in Northern Ireland are now paying on average 4 per cent more per item than they are in Great Britain.” This figure is based on a report which shows that average grocery prices are actually 8 per cent less here compared to Britain.

FactcheckNI confirmed that “what the DUP has done is select a few of the food categories… and said that, if you only factor those ones in (ignoring some others), then it looks like prices are higher here - despite the fact the report they are quoting says the opposite.”

FactheckNI concluded that such “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.”

False statistics are one aspect of dishonesty of the DUP's Brexit agenda. The party supported Brexit against the wishes of the majority of people and local businesses and ignored the economic damage it would cause. The DUP then pushed for the hardest possible Brexit despite studies showing it would be devastating for our economy.

The DUP claim they are acting to defend the Good Friday Agreement, which they opposed from the outset. And having insisted that cross-community consent was not needed for Brexit, the party now falsely claims the Protocol requires cross-community consent.

While the DUP play the victim the fact is that the Brexit we have is largely a result of the party’s actions while it exercised unprecedented power and propped up the Tories at Westminster. Full with hubris it pushed for the hardest Brexit possible, in the hope that a hard border would be imposed in Ireland. But the DUP overplayed its hand, and the Protocol protected the all-Ireland economy.

The DUP initially put on a brave face with then leader Arlene Foster describing the Protocol as a “Gateway of Opportunity” into the EU and British markets. But when a Lucidtalk poll suggested that the party would be punished in the recent election for its mishandling of Brexit, the DUP panicked and lurched to an anti-Protocol campaign. In desperation it has now put the future of the Executive at stake and once again over promised what it can deliver to its voters.

The economic reality is that local firms have largely adapted to the disruption of trading relationships caused by Brexit. Many are benefitting as supply chains are moved to Ireland. For example, Brexiteers regularly complain about Marks and Spencers’ difficulty with transporting goods to the north. But these difficulties have been overcome by awarding a £3.5m contract to a local firm based in Newry to make the company’s sandwiches.

The Protocol is working, and our businesses are thriving and creating jobs as a result – the awarding of contracts to Wrightbus for hydrogen buses for Germany and Dublin is a key example of that.

Meanwhile export and investment opportunities have gone unrealised by the Economy Department and Invest NI. These economic opportunities do not fit the political narrative of the DUP Economy Minister.

The DUP has no regard for the economic and social damage caused by its Brexit agenda. Its lies and smears are driven by a desperate attempt to shore up its support. What most people, most MLAs, and most businesses want is a pragmatic approach. They want solutions. That means making the most of the opportunities created by dual access to EU and British markets to create well-paid jobs and investment.

:: Conor Murphy is the Minister for Finance and a Sinn Féin MLA

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