Former finance minister Sammy Wilson has urged businesses to “sit up and take notice” of the stark warnings set out by a senior economist over the EU withdrawal deal.
Dr Esmond Birnie has reportedly expressed concern about Northern Ireland becoming a “rule-taker” from the EU with accountability absent, and claimed it could reinforce the “damaging mode of passivity and dependency” the economy has been trapped in for decades.
During a business breakfast in Belfast on Friday, he is said to have warned that the region would suffer “substantial disadvantages” in the longer-term, adding that regulatory checks between NI and Great Britain post-Brexit could lead to “higher costs and higher consumer prices”.
DUP MP Mr Wilson told the News Letter: “Esmond has long shared my views that the EU membership is damaging to the NI economy, and he is clearly indicating that continued membership – especially under the terms of this deal – would be even more damaging.
“I can’t understand why business leaders are not embracing these views that barriers between NI and GB are bound to be damaging to our economy.
“Businesses decided to back the withdrawal deal after a 20 minute audience with the prime minister.
“However, both Dr Birnie and Attorney General Geoffrey Cox have both studied this dealin great detail, and have warned of the implications it could have for the NI economy.
“So I think their assessment is probably a bit more accurate than someone who has listened to 20 minutes of spin from the PM.”
Strangford MP Jim Shannon also welcomed Dr Birnie’s comments, adding: “Whereas the DUP are mainly pointing out the constitutional difficulties of the deal, Dr Birnie has spelled out the reasons why it shouldn’t be supported from an economic point of view.
“These are pearls of wisdom words from a well-respected economic expert.”