Blog: ‘Neverendum’ Brexit and border poll prospects threaten Good Friday Agreement prosperity – Belfast Telegraph

Government in Belfast, Dublin and London have been urged to work together to ensure huge economic and social gains generated by the Good Friday Agreement are not derailed by Brexit and border polls threats.

framework for greater co-operation is already present in the architecture of the Agreement, said Ibec CEO Danny McCoy.

The Ireland business group launched a new campaign and report today, For Peace + Prosperity, highlighting the economic and social impact of the Good Friday Agreement as it approaches its 25th anniversary.

The islands of Ireland and Britain have both seen millions of jobs and hundreds of thousands of new businesses created as stability returned post-Agreement, he said, with further benefits including investment in forgotten communities and enhanced quality of life.

All-Ireland’s economy in 2023 produces the second highest GDP to inner London against 11 UK regions and has a consumer market of 7m with population growth twice that of Britain. Cross-border trade is valued at €9.5bn, while its labour force has reached 3.6m.

Sectors already identified as an all-Ireland brand include dairy, whiskey, tourism, arts, media and the experience economy. “This is not just about trade but about greater integration of business operations and interactions that benefit from economies of scale and proximity,” reads the report.

Ibec has commissioned research aimed at extracting more accurate data on the Northern Ireland market, with its trade figures historically underrepresented, said Mr McCoy.

To protect progress stemming from the Good Friday Agreement, Ibec has made a number of recommendations for the island of Ireland including a reboot of the policy framework for north-south economic co-operation.

Mr McCoy said the exceptionality of Ireland within the EU needs to be acknowledged.

However, with the Good Friday Agreement already in place, “you don’t have to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “That’s an international agreement between two sovereign states registered with the United Nations, and if both countries were in the EU, both out or one in and one out, you actually have the institutional architecture there for that kind of coordination.”

While the Republic of Ireland has also felt the impact of Brexit on imports, “it doesn’t bite as much because the Republic is going through a fairly unique period of prosperity driven by non-Brexit issues,” he said.

Both Britain and Ireland have fared well in attracting foreign direct investment as a result of the both the Good Friday Agreement and attractive corporate tax cuts, said Mr McCoy.

However, Britain began to lose out to Ireland after the Scotland independence vote in 2014 and Brexit vote in 2016, with its ‘leprechaun economics’ not mythical but borne out in a corporate tax revenue surge and its labour force climbing from 2m to 2.6m.

“One lesson people could draw is referenda that aren’t complete or clear cut, or ‘neverendums’ as the Canadians refer to them, are not a good recipe for investment,” said Mr McCoy.

“That’s obviously a lesson looking forward when it comes to things like border polls or unification referenda. The lesson of the last 25 years is the Belfast Good Friday Agreement underpinned a lot of the prosperity but, going forward, it will be an important hook against possibly more turbulent times in terms of jurisdictional confusions.”

One of the goals of Ibec’s campaign is to make sure the peace underpinning the Agreement is not disturbed by events such as Brexit or unification conversations. “You can have those conversations, but they can’t be at the expense of eroding the peace process,” he said. “A lot of people conflate the two things in together and that’s quite dangerous.”

Ibec’s launch event includes representation from different industries benefitting from peace and prosperity on the island.

Speakers included Lisa McGee, writer and producer of Derry Girls, Dr. Tanya Harrington, chair of Renewable Energy Ireland, and James Doherty of Sliabh Liag Distillers.

Mr McCoy said: “Since 1998, we have experienced record levels of investment right across the island of Ireland and Britain. This would simply not have occurred in such magnitude in the absence of peace supporting stability.

“While this anniversary offers opportunity to mark the prosperity achievements of the BGFA, it also affords a timely opportunity for reflection and acknowledgement that we cannot afford complacency.

“While much progress has been made, there remains much to be done to deliver full prosperity from the peace dividend. This is made even more significant in the post-Brexit landscape we find ourselves in.

“If we are to meaningfully mark the 25th anniversary of the BGFA, it is imperative that leading political stakeholders work with the respective business communities to establish detailed, innovative and workable solutions needed to protect and build on the benefits delivered by the all-island economy and ensure its future development is not hampered in any way.”

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