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Customs Union to cost NI £900 a year for every person: report

The economy of Northern Ireland is predicted to shrink by 3.3% or £1.7bn over the next decade if the UK leaves under a Customs Union arrangement (stock photo)
The economy of Northern Ireland is predicted to shrink by 3.3% or £1.7bn over the next decade if the UK leaves under a Customs Union arrangement (stock photo)

By Jennifer McKiernan

Leaving the EU but staying in the Customs Union will cost everyone in Northern Ireland more than £900 a year compared to remaining, according to a report by an economic think tank.

The economy of Northern Ireland is predicted to shrink by 3.3% or £1.7bn over the next decade if the UK leaves under a Customs Union arrangement.

That works out as a loss of £906 for everyone living in Northern Ireland, based on the current population size, according to an independent study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR).

The report warns that - while inflicting half the damage of a no-deal Brexit - a Customs Union arrangement would not be pain-free.

The overall UK economy would shrink about 3% or £80bn per year, NIESR analysis shows, and even after savings from contributions to the EU budget, the Government would have £13bn a year less to spend on public services. Across the UK, people would be an average of £800 a year worse off.

Filling the shortfall would mean public service cuts, higher borrowing or tax rises equivalent to 2.5p on the basic rate of income tax, the think tank said.

Speaking at the report launch, People's Vote campaigner and Conservative MP Sam Gyimah said a Labour-Tory "stitch-up" would not quash support for Nigel Farage's new Brexit Party.

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He said: "I fear that even if the Government and Labour can agree a Customs Union deal, it will do nothing to break the spell that Nigel Farage has currently cast on British politics.

"The report shows that, far from solving this deeply vexed question... a deal that results in people being poorer and having less control is hardly a solution."

Mr Gyimah, who quit his post as universities minister over Theresa May's handling of Brexit, appealed for a "clear-eyed, fact-driven and sober" review of Brexit, instead of the "fire and fury" of Mr Farage's rallies "selling people unicorns".

The East Surrey MP noted Mr Farage had "stopped making the argument for Brexit" by refusing to set out any policies in his European election manifesto.

"He never tells us about why Brexit makes sense any more, he never tells us about the great opportunities that Brexit will deliver any more," he said. "The only argument he has standing is that there was a vote and we cannot go back on that vote, but nobody is saying go back on that vote, we are saying... give the people a final say."

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