Belfast Telegraph

Brexit impact report divides Northern Ireland politicians

By Rebecca Black

Northern Ireland's parties have clashed over a leaked Government report that predicts Brexit will have a devastating economic impact on the province.

Brexit impact studies released to MPs earlier this week suggest that Northern Ireland would take an 8% hit to economic growth under the Government's preferred outcome of a free trade deal with the EU.

But leaving with no deal would result in a 12% dip, while staying in the single market amounts to a 2.5% decline, the report indicated.

London would take the least damage, according to the forecasts, which were prepared by the Department for Exiting the EU.

Ministers were forced to release the report after it was leaked to the media and amid pressure from Labour and pro-EU Tories.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson criticised the leak - a move he claimed was designed to "produce gory headlines". He has insisted the report wasn't definitive.

He added: "Newspaper horoscopes would probably give more reliable predictions.

"I have had the opportunity to study the report in detail and whilst I cannot divulge its details, nevertheless I can confirm that no firm forecasts are made about rates of economic growth, nor indeed could they be.

"No economic model could predict economic growth over the next 15 years and the paper itself makes it clear that there are factor which make any analysis 'highly uncertain'.

"There are those who have read this report but still use the figures in it as if they were factual forecasts, and in doing so they are deceitful."

He added: "It is simply a document which makes consistent assumptions about the future, applies them to three different scenarios and then analyses possible outcomes - but makes it clear that it is not forecasting actual outcomes for the economy, nor would it be sensible to do so."

However, SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said the figures served as a timely warning ahead of EU withdrawal.

"Brexit continues to represent a serious threat to business and the broader economy in Northern Ireland," she said.

"These figures demonstrate that there can be no good Brexit, only a least worst Brexit.

"The Conservative Party's hard-faced refusal to even countenance membership of the single market and customs union will only make a bad situation acutely worse."

Belfast Telegraph

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