Better for NI to be an independent country in the EU like Latvia

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Ben Lowry’s interview with Baiba Braže, Latvia’s UK ambassador, (‘Brexit was big news in our country, because nobody was expecting it,’ 12 July) was illuminating for several reasons.

Firstly, parallels between Latvia and Northern Ireland (NI) were drawn; Latvia with a population of two million compared to NI’s 1.9 million.

And both are in the European Union (EU), albeit Latvia is a member state in its own right, whereas after a century in the UK it is evident that NI still relies on begging bowl politics as exemplified by the current DUP-Conservative deal.

Secondly, Eurostat records that tax rates set by the Saeima (parliament) in Latvia are among the lowest in the EU at 29.5 per cent of GDP in 2015 compared to 24.4 in Ireland and 35 in the UK.

While the UK tax take was €900,043,000,000 the tax take in Latvia was a respectable €10,974,000,000 and €62,450,000,000 in Ireland.

We might expect that as the 2 million population of NI is just under half that of the Republic’s 4.6 million that we might aspire to a tax take of fifty per cent of the Republic’s or some €30 billion.

Meanwhile government expenditure in the UK is 43 per cent of GDP compared to 35 in Latvia and 29 in Ireland.

And gross debt in the UK represents 85 per cent of GDP compared to only 78 in Ireland and 40 in Latvia.

What this tells us is that Northern Ireland can easily survive as an independent member state inside the EU with a standard of living similar to or better than Latvia instead of a succession of NI finance ministers going cap in hand to Westminster begging for funds.

One last point to make is that in the USA it would be foolish for citizens to argue they should be ruled by either, say, Raleigh (North Carolina) or Columbia (South Carolina) when Washington, DC is the capital of the USA.

Similarly, it appears foolish – don’t you think – for unionists to demand that NI is ruled by Westminster (London) and republicans/nationalists to demand that Leinster House (Dublin) rule when Brussels-Strasbourg is the EU capital?

Far better for NI to join Latvia as an independent member state in its own right and deal directly with Brussels than through either London or Dublin, surely?

Bernard J. Mulholland, Malone Road BT9