A post-Brexit recession will hit Northern Ireland harder and longer than the rest of the UK, Mairtin Ó Muilleoir has warned.
The Stormont finance minister also cautioned that anyone believing London would plug a European funding hole in the region — running into hundreds of millions — must “believe in fairies”. Mr Ó Muilleoir made his remarks before an Oireachtas committee in Dublin investigating the expected impact of Brexit on jobs and the economy across the island.
“At the minute, north of the border, we are staring into this Brexit black hole. I see no economic opportunity, no cultural opportunity, no opportunities for community uplift, and no opportunities for peace-building in a Brexit,” he told the hearing.
British chancellor Philip Hammond’s forecast that the decision to leave the EU would cost the UK £60bn (€71bn). Mr Ó Muilleoir predicted Northern Ireland would be worse hit than regions across the Irish Sea.
“All those negative impacts will be magnified north of the border,” he said.
“The recession and the downturn predicted in Britain will be worse north of the border and will last longer.”
He said it was incumbent on politicians north and south to work together to mitigate the looming problems.
Some sort of “special case or special status” must be secured for Northern Ireland, which allows it to continue to have the benefits of EU membership in the times ahead, he told the committee.
“The people north of the border want to continue to enjoy the bounty of Europe,” he said.
A 56% majority of Northern Ireland voters backed the Remain camp in last June’s in/out referendum.
However, the region’s largest party, the DUP, supported Leave and has said the overall UK result is what counts.
Stormont Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said the decision to “drag” Northern Ireland out of the EU with the rest of the UK is profoundly undemocratic. Before the same hearing, he said: “The unilateral decision being taken at this time by the British government to withdraw from membership of the EU and drag the North of Ireland with it without our consent, is both disastrous and profoundly undemocratic.”
Mr Hazzard also said it was essential to argue the case in Brexit negotiations with the EU for a designated special status for Northern Ireland within the EU.
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