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Northern Ireland economy ‘outperforms rest of UK’ as region prospers under protocol, according to ONS


Belfast city centre. Pacemaker.

Belfast city centre. Pacemaker.

Belfast city centre. Pacemaker.

Northern Ireland’s economy has largely recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic – with much of it down to the benefits of the protocol – according to experimental official statistics.

Published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on Monday, the figures revealed that Northern Ireland’s economic output in the third quarter was only 0.3% below the final quarter of 2019.

The province performed better than any other region in the UK.

Northern Ireland is still part of the EU single market under the protocol, which has effectively created a border in the Irish Sea as goods coming into ports here from the rest of the UK undergo checks.

SDLP MLA Matthew O’Toole said the ONS figures provide “more evidence” that the protocol is protecting Northern Ireland from the “worst effects” of Brexit.

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“These findings from ONS are the latest evidence not just that the protocol is protecting our economy, but that the claims of economic damage have been hysterical distortions and fabrications from unionists and the UK Government,” stated Mr O’Toole.

“Throughout this year we have heard lurid warnings and claims that the NI economy was on the verge of collapse. In fact, we have outperformed regions in Britain.

“The protocol is inferior to EU membership, but local businesses have something that firms in Britain have lost – access to both British and European markets. As well as finding solutions to practical issues around implementation, we should be maximising the benefits from dual market access that we are already seeing.”

Speaking to the Financial Times, Professor of Economics at King’s College London, Jonathan Portes, said it was “plausible that Northern Ireland has done better”.

Separate official statistics published in October also revealed that Northern Ireland was the only UK region with growing imports in the first half of the year – compared to the same period in 2020.

“Northern Ireland has a large public sector which has helped to protect its economy during the pandemic,” Richard Holt, an economist at Oxford Economics, told the Financial Times.

London was the second best performing area in the UK, with 1.8% down on pre-pandemic levels, followed by Wales.

The West Midlands, however, was still nearly 10% below pre-pandemic levels.

However, the ONS said the experimental data should be treated with some caution as they are “subject to a degree of uncertainty”.

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