‘Brexit is a threat to the all-island economy and to reconciliation’

Mary Lou McDonald with Elisha McCallion in Derry recently.
Mary Lou McDonald with Elisha McCallion in Derry recently.

Brexit threatens the prospect of a stable all-Ireland economy and all that has been achieved towards reconciliation between the islands of Ireland and Britain.

The minority in the North pursuing Brexit at any cost should take time to consider the consequences of their actions and focus on the economic benefits of either remaining within the EU or, at least, accepting that the ‘backstop’ is the least worst economic position.

A recent mock checkpoint during a protest staged along the border by Border Communities Against Brexit came. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

A recent mock checkpoint during a protest staged along the border by Border Communities Against Brexit came. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The opportunities available to us in either of these scenarios – continuing unfettered trade with both Britain and the EU – also opens up the prospect of a restored Assembly and Executive seeking the transfer of additional fiscal powers to Stormont.

What this requires is a stable Assembly based on equality, respect and genuine power sharing, with a full suite of fiscal powers which would enable us, in co-operation with Dublin, to build a vibrant all-island economy, by jointly devising a blueprint for economic recovery and stability for the whole island. This would also help heal the damage in relationships caused by Brexit and hasten full reconciliation between the islands of Britain and Ireland.

Increased fiscal responsibility for the Executive and economic planning on an all-Ireland basis would help develop political maturity and create confidence based on equality of status when dealing with the British Government in areas of common interest.

It would also place us on a level footing with Dublin when devising island wide common economic policy.

An all-island economy is the logical requirement to address the legacy of dislocation, disadvantage and disinvestment resulting from partition. Partition represents economic inefficiency, waste and injustice when what the people of Ireland, north and south, require is a vibrant all-island economy.

Unfortunately, an unavoidable legacy of partition and one that needs sensitive consideration to resolve, if we are to build a vibrant, sustainable all-island economy, is political unionist resistance to change within the North and especially in relationships with the rest of Ireland.

This resistance persists despite any Executive being extremely limited in its ability to respond to economic downturns because fiscal policy, taxation and public expenditure, and all regulatory frameworks, are set in London.

The North’s economy, peripheral to British economic decision making - cannot fulfil its potential, is unsustainable on its own and cannot exist in isolation from the rest of the island, a fact accepted by a number of eminent economists.

The North’s economy is further severely distorted by its dependence on a Barnett formula that we have no influence on, but through which the British Exchequer decides the size of our budget regardless of need while the Executive has no tax raising or varying powers to supplement our actual budgetary requirements. The economy of the South cannot reach its full potential growth either, while competing with the North for inward investment.

A new approach is needed and Sinn Féin seeks an inclusive all-island economy that serves the entire population. An economy that will eradicate inequality, poverty, homelessness, educational disadvantage and lack of adequate health and social services which persist in both parts of the island. Without a strong economy that we are in control of we cannot fund the programmes that we need to address these issues.

I believe a strong all-island economy and strong, confident political leadership on the island of Ireland speaking with one voice would not only hasten reconciliation between our divided people on this island but also between the islands of Britain and Ireland, based on respect and parity of esteem for the different economic conditions pertaining on the two islands.