At a recent meeting of the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council’s Brexit Committee a grim picture was painted by Shane Murphy, Chief Economist at the Department of Economy, as he delivered a presentation on the possible ramifications of a No Deal Brexit.

It was revealed that 40,000 jobs depend on the export of goods from Northern Ireland and that some of those businesses will not survive in a No Deal scenario:

“For a good chunk of those exports we don’t think it will be all right on the night and sooner or later some of those will go,” Mr. Murphy told the meeting.

Following his presentation some of the debate among Councillors centered around the economic outlook in the event of a united Ireland.

There were differing views across the chamber with a motion passed that was proposed by Councillor Stephen McCann, Sinn Fein, for the Council to write to David Sterling, head of the Civil Service in Northern Ireland, to commission a study into the economic outcome of a united Ireland.

Initially Councillor McCann had asked Mr. Murphy if his Department had done any contingency work in relation to economic impact of a united Ireland to which Mr. Murphy explained that the department had not.

“At the minute I have about 40 projects on the go in relation to Brexit. We are going flat out to be honest on what we can do at the minute. At the minute that is not on my list of projects. And we have got to bear in mind the situation that permanent secretaries are in. It is very strained with no ministers in place. And there are questions about what they can and can’t do and what they might be able to leave to an incoming minister,” he said.

Councillor Warrington, UUP, picking up on this theme spoke about a recent report from a Professor Fitzgerald, in the Republic of Ireland, with Councillor Warrington stating:

“A united Ireland could cost more than 30 billion a year… it would cause a complete collapse of the Northern Ireland economy.”

Responding to Councillor Warrington’s comments, Councillor Sheamus Greene, Sinn Fein said that he would not be trusting the analysis of Professor Fitzgerald: “He said, when talking about his analysis of banking crisis in the south; “My forecast was horribly wrong, and I will regret it to my dying day’. And he is one of the few people down south who would not want a united Ireland so I think there is an agenda with him. I will take the opinion of David McWilliams, who called the crash properly, and who is talking about the benefits of a united Ireland.”

There was also discussion about the impact to farmers in the region. Councillor Rainey, UUP, asked Mr. Murphy to elaborate on what a no deal Brexit would mean for exporters of agri-food products with the Chief Economist for the Department of Economy stating that they would be at a “competitive disadvantage”.

He explained that exporting into the Republic of Ireland, which has a “high tariff wall” would have cost implications for exporters, while he also explained that the announced Great Britain tariffs in the event of a no deal Brexit “are much lower” and that this could lead to “potentially having lower cost producers of agri-food from outside the EU being new competitors”.