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1+1 = 35.6bn

Dr. Kurt Hübner.

By Ray O’Hanlon

As the new “Fresh Start” agreement was being unveiled in Belfast last week, a potentially even fresher restart for the island of Ireland was being unveiled at the Harvard Club in Manhattan.

A study of the economic impact of Irish unification, the “Modelling Irish Unification” study, carried out by Dr. Kurt Hübner, director of the Institute for European Studies at the University of British Columbia, and Dr. Renger Herman van Nieuwkoop, a professor of economics at ETH Zürich in Switzerland, presented a picture of dynamic, indeed startling, economic change for the island should the border be removed.

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Northern Ireland, the study concludes, would receive the lion’s share of financial benefit, though the Republic would also get a boost.

Political and economic unification, the study concludes, could potentially deliver a €35.6 billion boost in Gross Domestic Product for the island in the first eight years.

It further suggests that economic unification could result in a 4 to 7.5 percent long-term improvement in the North’s GDP, and a more modest boost of between 0.7 to 1.2 percent in GDP per capita in the South.

That said, the gathering heard how the Republic’s present economy leaves the North well behind because it is much more connected to the global market.

The study highlights a range of scenarios that would follow unification, all of them positive to varying degrees.

According to Dr. Hübner, the results show that the Northern Ireland economy would enjoy significant long-term improvements from unification.

“While these effects occur in a static global economic environment, under ideal political conditions, they underline the potential of political and economic unification when it is supported by smart economic policy,” he said.

Another speaker, Michael Burke, economic consultant and former senior international economist at Citibank in London, compared the current North economy to a rail car, half-hitched to a slow moving train, that being the British economy.

Described as an “independent, non-partisan research study,” the study was commissioned by K.R.B. Inc., a San Francisco Bay Area-based nonprofit that promotes social welfare and conflict resolution through education.