Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland and other highly funded areas were more likely to vote to stay in EU: report

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland and other parts of the UK which voted to remain in the EU are those that have benefited most from Government funding, a report has revealed.

The research from the Fabian Society suggests low spending in less prosperous areas increased likelihood of voting in favour of leaving the EU.

However, Northern Ireland - along with London and Scotland - were shown to have benefited most from Government spending, and were the areas that backed staying in the EU.

Northern Ireland's electorate voted 56:44 in favour of staying in the EU.

Areas which the research found had poor funding deals and high support for Brexit included the East and West Midlands, Yorkshire and the Humber and the North East.

Andrew Harrop, general secretary of the left wing think-tank, said: "Fabian Society analysis shows that those regions and nations which have been 'winners' when it comes to public spending were also the most pro-Remain."

The Fabian Society measured gross value per head and public spending per head across UK regions, and compared the measures with Remain support.

Northern Ireland's relative lack of prosperity was measured by the Fabian Society at 76 and its relatively higher claim on public spending at 121 - which the society said contributed to its backing of the Remain side.

Meanwhile, figures showing that Government borrowing was higher than expected in August after a surplus a month earlier reflect other data suggesting that Brexit has not caused an immediate hit to the economy, according to PwC NI chief economist Esmond Birnie.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said public sector net borrowing, which does not include public sector banks, dropped by £900m to £10.5bn year on year, against economists' forecasts for £10bn.

Government borrowing for the fiscal year to date - the period from April to August - decreased by £4.9bn to £33.8bn, compared with the same period last year.

Dr Birnie said: "The public finance figures reflect recent economic data, suggesting that there has not been a significant immediate hit to the UK economy and to tax revenues following the EU referendum outcome.

"Public borrowing in August 2016 was almost £1bn lower than in August 2015 and cumulative public borrowing for the financial year to date was around £5bn lower than in the same period last year.

"That said, it may still be very difficult for the Chancellor to meet the March Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecast for 2016/17, which envisaged public borrowing being £21bn lower than the latest estimate for 2015/16.

"We expect the OBR to revise up its borrowing projections materially in the November Autumn Statement and the Chancellor is unlikely to seek to offset this at a time when the priority is to support the economy in the uncertain period following the EU referendum."

Meanwhile, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) raised its growth forecast for Britain, after warning the UK would be hit by an immediate shock following the Brexit vote. The think-tank upped its UK projections for 2016 by 0.1% to 1.8%.

Belfast Telegraph