A leaked government report suggesting that Northern Ireland could suffer a 12% hit in GDP if no deal is struck on Brexit has been dismissed as “fantasy economics” by a senior DUP MP.
Former Stormont finance minister Sammy Wilson said the Treasury figures have “no economic merit” and claimed they were “only done for political reasons”.
The report examined the 15-year impact of the UK staying in the single market, doing a trade deal with the EU or leaving without a deal.
It suggests that growth in Northern Ireland would be slowed by 2.5% from staying in the single market, 8% by doing a trade deal with the EU or 12% in the event of no deal.
But DUP Brexit spokesperson Mr Wilson branded the figures “nonsense” and said it was “impossible” to accurately predict growth figures over a decade-and-a-half period.
“You might as well go out and pick lottery numbers rather than use these figures as any indication as to what is going to happen to the economy,” he told the News Letter.
“The Treasury gets growth figures wrong every year, and if you cannot accurately predict it over for that time frame then how on earth are you suppose to do it for a period as long as 15 years, with all the economic variables that will occur in that time?
“Anyone who tells you otherwise is either a charlatan or they are deluded. These are nothing more than random numbers which may as well have been plucked from the sky.”
Mr Wilson also claimed that the official report – which was leaked last week and prompted a major row among MPs – was done merely to serve a political purpose.
The East Antrim MP added: “Some people with an agenda have presented these figures as forecasts.
“But having read through the report myself, the authors make it clear that these are in fact merely comparisons of various scenarios. They also stressed that there are a number of factors which make any analysis highly uncertain.
“The only reason that anyone will lend these figures any credence is because they will play into the hands of Remainers, who will claim that the only good outcome for the UK is if we stay in the EU.”
However, Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said the risk of the local economy contracting is “being heightened by hardline Brexiteers”.
He added: “This should be taken as a major reality check for the UK Government. The sobering evidence is one of drastic consequences for the UK as a whole.
“It shows the risks the government are taking through their current brinkmanship and allowing hardline Brexiteers in the Conservative Party and DUP to set the agenda.”