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Letters: Example set by Latvians shows us how we could survive and prosper as independent state in EU

The visit paid to Northern Ireland last week by Baiba Braze, Latvia's UK ambassador, was illuminating for several reasons.

Firstly, parallels between Latvia and Northern Ireland can be drawn - Latvia with a population of two million, compared to NI 's 1.9 million. Both are in the European Union, albeit Latvia is a member state in its own right, whereas, after a century in the UK, it is evident that Northern Ireland still relies on begging-bowl politics, as exemplified by the DUP-Conservative deal.

Secondly, Eurostat records show that government expenditure in the UK is 43% of GDP, compared to 35% in Latvia and 29% in Ireland. Gross debt in the UK represents 85% of GDP, compared to only 78% in Ireland and 40% in Latvia.

But of far more interest is that Eurostat records show the tax rates set by the Saeima (parliament) in Latvia are among the lowest in the EU, at 29.5% of GDP in 2015, compared to 24.4% in Ireland and 35% in the UK.

While the UK tax-take was €900,043,000,000, the tax-take in Latvia was a respectable €10,974,000,000 and €62,450,000,000 in Ireland.

We might expect that, as the two million population of Northern Ireland represents 3% of the UK and just under 50% of that of the Republic's 4.6 million, we might aspire to a tax-take of approximately €30bn, which represents 3% of the UK's total and 50% of the Republic's.

What this tells us is that Northern Ireland can easily survive as an independent member state inside the EU, with a standard of living similar to (or better than) Latvia, instead of a succession of Northern Ireland finance ministers going cap-in-hand to Westminster, begging for funds.

Far better for Northern Ireland to join Latvia as an independent member state in its own right and deal directly with Brussels than through either London or Dublin, surely?

Bernard J Mulholland

Belfast

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