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Editorial: All-Ireland economic strategy needed

It is increasingly clear that in getting Brexit done, recent Conservative governments have contributed significantly to the undoing of the British economy.

Now officially in recession, Britain's output shrank by 0.2 per cent in the three months to September, while the Eurozone's grew by that same amount.

As a Eurozone member, the Republic continues to do well in economic terms, despite recent job losses in some high tech companies. With inflation predicted to fall below 7 per cent next year, the south's economy has the advantage of being highly globalised in terms of outgoing exports and incoming talent.

Britain's economic isolation, by contrast, has created a labour shortage, which is driving wages up, thereby helping to fuel inflation to 11 per cent. The labour shortage has been compounded by lengthy waiting lists for medical treatment, causing a high drop out rate from the labour market.

One suggested solution to Britain's economic ills is a Swiss-style arrangement with the EU, which would allow single market access in return for aligning with EU laws.

However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has rejected this. He might like to reconsider his decision in view of his commitment to resolve the protocol stalemate. While the protocol is necessary because of the complete break between the UK and the EU, a closer formal relationship between the two would remove the need for it.

It might even win the backing of the DUP in view of the news that its former agriculture minister, Edwin Poots, wrote to the UK environment secretary asking that farmers here should not be forced into the rest of the UK's subsidy system.

Resolving the protocol, however, will not be enough for the north to offset the damage being caused by Britain's economic slump.

An Economic and Social Research Institute paper shows that from 2001 to 2020, productivity levels in the south rose, while the north's fell. By 2020, the Republic's productivity was approximately 40 per cent higher, which, among other factors, is related to the level of education in the workforce.

A growing divergence in social and economic policy between the EU and the UK will make this problem worse. Our economy cannot match the rest of Ireland's by union with a Britain which is determined to bury its head in the economic sand. It is time for an all-Ireland economic strategy.

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