Remaining in EU single market 'could add years of growth'
Staying within the European Union's single market could add almost two years' worth of growth to the UK's economy, according to a report.
A study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) claims that membership of the single market could be worth a potential 4% of extra gross domestic product (GDP) to the UK compared with World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership alone.
The think tank said the boost to the country's trade, public finances, growth and living standards far outweigh the costs of single market membership across Europe.
Its report, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, added that just having access rather than membership of the single market was "virtually meaningless".
The IFS sent out some stark warnings over the impact of Brexit ahead of the EU referendum, saying it would lead to two more years of austerity. Its earlier reports on Brexit said lower growth and extra borrowing of Brexit would knock a £20bn to £40bn hole in the Government's finances by 2020.
In its study, the IFS warned the UK faces "very big choices" in negotiations with the EU.
Ian Mitchell, research associate at the IFS and an author of the report, said: "There is all the difference in the world between 'access to' and 'membership of' the single market.
"Membership is likely to offer significant economic benefits particularly for trade in services. But outside the EU, single market membership also comes at the cost of accepting future regulations designed in the EU without UK input."
The report claims that while leaving the EU will free the UK from an estimated £8bn a year of budget contributions, the loss of trade from Brexit could hit tax receipts by a larger amount.
Meanwhile, officials in the Republic are working to develop a post-Brexit electronic customs system where vehicles and other hauliers will be able to cross the border from Northern Ireland without having to stop.
It's understood that informal contacts have already taken place between Irish customs officials and their counterparts in the UK about the possibility of developing an integrated, joined-up electronic border system. It's a possibility that would be a welcome outcome for companies who regularly trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic.