New economic data shows the contrasting effects of Brexit on the two areas of the UK which voted against leaving the EU. Scotland’s economic output has slumped while Northern Ireland has fared much better.
The difference between the two? Under the post Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol the province still has access to the EU single market. Scotland’s repeated requests for the same access have been rebutted by Westminster.
Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted against leaving the EU, by 62% and 55.8% respectively.
The consequences of Brexit have been horrific for Scotland
Data from the Office for National Statistics reveals that the consequences of Brexit have been horrific for Scotland, which has seen an economic output slump of five per cent in the third quarter of 2021, after Boris Johnson’s disastrous Brexit deal took effect on January 1 this year.
That’s more than double the overall hit to Britain’s economy, which saw a 2.1 per cent drop in the third quarter of 2021.
In contrast, the economy of Northern Ireland did better than every other part of the UK, falling by just 0.3%. The fresh data comes after it emerged last month that Northern Ireland was the only region in the UK with increasing imports for the first half of 2021, compared to the same period last year.
The latest data also shows that London recorded the second-best economic output performance across Britain.
Social Democratic and Labour Party MLA Matthew O’Toole said the ONS figures provide “more evidence” that the protocol is protecting Northern Ireland from the “worst effects” of Brexit.
The protocol was negotiated by the UK government to avoid a politically unacceptable hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit kicked in.
It has since become a bone of contention between the EU and the Westminster government, which wants to effectively renegotiate it. The disagreement is so serious that the UK has threatened to start the process of tearing up the Brexit deal.
UK Brexit minister David Frost has already suggested it would hurt the UK if Northern Ireland kept benefitting from the EU’s single market.
At a recent Tory party conference fringe meeting, Frost admitted supply chains are being “reordered quite quickly” and trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic has increased in both directions based on both British and Irish figures.
But he suggested things have to change: “People and businesses do respond very quickly to incentives and incidentally the other area where you see this is trade movements from Ireland across Great Britain into the rest of the EU, where the so-called ‘land bridge’ has sort of collapsed in the first nine months of this year.
“So that’s one reason why we can’t wait very long, things aren’t happening and it isn’t just theoretical.”
During the Brexit negotiations the Scottish government consistently argued that Scotland should retain access to the European single market but Westminster refused to listen.
A group of unionist politicians are currently mounting a legal challenge to the protocol on the grounds that it conflicts with the Acts of Union from 1800.
Opening the Westminster defence of the protocol yesterday Tony McGleenan QC told senior judges: “There has been no change to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. The suggestion that there’s been some shattering of the union is, we say, not sustainable.”