Belfast Telegraph

Irish unity would bring thousands of job cuts: DUP's Hamilton

Warning: Simon Hamilton
Warning: Simon Hamilton
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Former Finance Minister Simon Hamilton has said those currently attempting to make an economic case for a united Ireland are gambling their future on "supposition and wishful thinking".

The DUP MLA was speaking as the debate continued on a report which lays out what would happen if the economies of Northern Ireland and the Republic were to integrate.

Financial journalist and economic commentator Paul Gosling outlined aspects of his report, published in April of this year, at this week's West Belfast Festival.

The report, entitled 'The Economic Effect of an All-Ireland Economy', considers the potential economic impact of Irish reunification, with particular consideration given to the likely effects of Brexit.

Mr Gosling warned that Brexit could be devastating to the Northern Ireland economy in many ways, including reducing jobs and wages.

He says that north-south economic integration would generate substantial benefits for all of the island of Ireland and has penned a 10-point plan for how Irish reunification might be achieved.

Previously, former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams called the report "common sense".

However Mr Hamilton, who previously served as Finance Minister at Stormont between 2013-2015, said yesterday that united Ireland economics are based on "wishful thinking".

He said: "This report was published earlier in 2018 but this week at the West Belfast Festival, it received renewed focus.

"Behind some of the claims that 'everyone's a winner' in this united Ireland, however there lies a reliance on supposition and wishful thinking to build a case," he said.

The Strangford Assembly member claimed the report was fraught with difficulties.

He noted that it assumes continued UK Government subvention to Northern Ireland for approximately 30 years along with an immediate £10bn contribution to infrastructure and that the UK Government will continue to fund pension costs.

Mr Hamilton said unification would cost thousands of jobs in Northern Ireland.

"Interestingly, the report does not dwell too long on its view that 50,000 public sector workers in Northern Ireland would have to be made redundant.

"However even in this area, it expects the United Kingdom Exchequer to bear all the costs," he added.

Mr Hamilton's comments came after Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said an Irish unity referendum is now at the centre of political discussion.

She was accused of performing a u-turn as days earlier she said that such a poll should not be held while uncertainty around Brexit remains.

Speaking in Castlewellan in Co Down last weekend, Ms McDonald said the time for a unity referendum was drawing near, adding that British identity "can and must be accommodated" in a united Ireland.

"It is not a question of 'if' a unity referendum will happen but a question of 'when'," she said.

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