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By Owen Polley – 3 minute read

A POPULAR remainer shibboleth is the idea that, while Brexit is making the United Kingdom poorer, more insular and more reactionary by the day, the Republic of Ireland is fast becoming a gleaming paradise of liberalism and prosperity, thanks to its place in the EU. 

It’s a claim that has always ignored the growing sense of political disillusionment among the southern Irish. 

This sentiment saw the rise and rise of Sinn Fein; a party linked inextricably to terrorism that peddles a mixture of populism, pound-shop Marxism and rabble-rousing republicanism. It is now the Republic’s largest party and forms its official opposition – apparently tapping into popular anger about housing, health and pensions.

The idea that Ireland has been successful economically, while not entirely without foundation, is also, in part, a conjuring trick. In the Daily Telegraph recently, the economist, Julian Jessop forensically took apart the techniques that have been used to exaggerate the Republic’s economic success. He explained:

In reality, the Irish GDP data are so heavily distorted by the activities of multinationals that no-one pays them much attention – even the Irish themselves. No serious commentator would pretend that the Irish economy is as rich as these figures imply.

The basic problem, as explained by the Irish national statistics office, is that “a lot of Ireland’s GDP includes profits that are generated here but then go straight out to the owners of companies abroad”.

It’s been described before by Nobel prize-winner Paul Krugman, as leprechaun economics, or the Father Ted Economy, which relies on money ‘resting’ in the Republic of Ireland’s account.

Julian Jessop also notes that real consumer spending is significantly higher in the UK than in southern Ireland, which is an indicator that something is awry with the GDP data. 

He could also have mentioned that the cost of living is 40 per cent higher in the RoI than the EU average. Indeed, the Taioseach, Leo Varadkar, this week confirmed he could not rule out introducing price controls for the food retail sector.

That rather puts claims about the EU being somehow superior into perspective.

Meanwhile the latest ONS figures about UK-Irish trade have been published:

🇮🇪🇬🇧 Irish exports of goods and services TO the United Kingdom increased by 36.0% between 2016 and 2022.

🇬🇧🇮🇪UK exports of goods and services TO the Republic of  Ireland increased by 75.3% between 2016 and 2022.

The UK’s balance of trade surplus with the Republic of Ireland rose from +£9.8bn in 2016 to +£25.6bn in 2022.

No further comment is surely necessary?

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Owen Polley is a Belfast-based writer, commentator, consultant, and the co-author ‘An Agenda for Northern Ireland After Brexit‘.

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