It has received virtually no publicity in the mass media in the United Kingdom, But it is a question that was begging to be asked in the current impasse over whether there should be a soft or hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. And until now no one has weighed up the facts and figures of a united Ireland versus a divided Ireland. Indeed there was pressure from the Irish government to keep this report secret because of the Brexit negotiations.
But this week the the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement have published a highly controversial report ‘Brexit & the Future of Ireland Uniting Ireland & its People in Peace & Prosperity’ which basically says the British taxpayer will be better off if it let Northern Ireland unite with the Republic and remain in the European Union.
The author is a German economist, Gunther Thumann who worked as a senior economist at the German desk of the International Monetary Fund at the time of German reunification.This provided him with the analytical understanding of the complex economic developments as they happened.
He is backed by Senator Mark Daly, Deputy Leader of the Fianna Fail Senate Group
Senate Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, the Irish Overseas and Diaspora, who yesterday lambasted officials at the Irish Dept of Foreign Affairs after he was told officials said that they did not want the research released until ‘after Brexit’. ‘
‘This is unacceptable interference by the department of Foreign Affairs in the work of the Dail and Senate. …The fact that officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs do not what this information released and the motivation behind it need to be answered’ “.
In one sense this is not surprising. Theresa May only stays in power because the Democratic Unionist Party backs her government and they want to stay in the UK. But the majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU and this report’s findings are dynamite
And Theresa May has had to lavish gifts on the DUP increasing the bill for mainland taxpayers while depriving the rest of the UK of money for other public services like free school meals.
The central point of this report is that Northern Ireland would no longer require any taxpayer’s subsidy and could have a balanced budget – saving over £9 billion a year. Big savings could be made in administration and the UK would be left with a £2.8 billion pension bill for pensions already accrued while Northern Ireland was part of the UK.
The findings in the report which you can download here are:
– Non-identifiable expenditure of £2.9billion includes Northern Ireland’s share of UK Defence Expenditure, UK Debt Interest, International service, UK contribution to the EU, British Royal family etc. These would not be a liability of a new agreed Ireland.
– Thumann in his research explains that not all the accounting adjustments figure attributed by Westminster to Northern Ireland of £1.1billion would be applicable in a reunification scenario either.
– Also the convergence of the public service numbers between the north and the south would bring a saving of £1.7billion per annum in the current budget expenditure of Northern Ireland.
“Taking the above adjustments and savings into account the cumulative figure is £8.5 billion. With the reported deficit for Northern Ireland is at £9.2 billion therefore the current income and expenditure figure for Northern Ireland Thumann & Daly concludes comes near a balanced budget in a reunification scenario.
This is of course, before taking into account the likely potential for growth in Northern Ireland following unification as happened in East Germany following its reunification. “
The big problem adopting such a change is political not economic. Supporters of the DUP would resist the idea of Northern Ireland not being part of Britain’s armed forces and be furious that they would no longer financially support the Queen.
But the changing demographics mean eventually the Catholics not the Protestants will form the majority adding to pressure for a united Ireland. Tensions are already growing over proposed boundary changes for the Westminster Parliament which mean that Sinn Fein are likely to gain more seats at the expense of the DUP.
The report is one of the unforeseen consequences of Brexit. Whether Theresa May and Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, like it or not Brexit will put a united Ireland on the agenda ,particularly if we crash out and there has to be a new border. No wonder the Irish republic’s Whitehall did not want this published.
There was a debate on the report on Newstalk Breakfast in the Republic where another economist challenged whether the savings would be so big because Northern Ireland would have to pay some money to Dublin. The link to the podcast is here .