Claims Brexit Britain trails Ireland over GDP blown apart

Claims Brexit Britain is trailing far behind Ireland have been blown apart with charts showing the republic is actually trailing the UK.

Ireland’s GDP per capita – calculated by dividing the total market value of a country’s goods and services by its population – is over £81,756 (about $102,622 at 2017 prices), according to figures generated by the Our World in Data website. This compares to £35,273 ($44,275) per capita for Britain.

The seemingly wide gulf between the two countries’ GDP per capita has been used by critics of Brexit to argue that wealth per person in the UK has been decimated by Britain’s exit from the European Union.

But a data expert has shown how Brexit Britain is not trailing its island neighbour and by one measure is actually ahead.

John Burn-Murdoch took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to explain why the per capita GDP figures are “wrong and misleading”.

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Mr Burn-Murdoch, Chief Data Reporter at the Financial Times, shared a chart displaying GDP per capita figures and wrote on the platform: “Imagine looking at this chart and thinking “yep this looks legit”.

“But naturally, despite it being glaringly wrong and misleading, and despite this having been pointed out to the author, it remains up”.

He explained Ireland’s GDP figures are “notoriously distorted” by profit-shifting from US tech and pharma companies.

Profit shifting involves a multinational corporation moving its profits from the country where it manufactures products or sells good and services into a tax haven.

By doing so, the multinational corporation underreports the value of its profit in the countries where it produces or sells goods and services and so pays less to no tax in that country. Multinationals therefore distort tax haven Ireland’s GDP figures.

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Mr Burn-Murdoch explained that Ireland’s Central Statistics Office publishes Modified Gross National Income in an effort to strip out profit-shifting distortions.

He said: “If we use that preferred statistic, the Ireland vs UK comparison from the original tweet is completely transformed.”

That data shows the gap between Britain and Ireland narrowing with both between £32,000 and £48,000 ($40,000 and $60,000).

Further analysis using Eurostat figures shows Ireland trailling the UK when it comes to individual consumption and on a similr trajectory to France.

Mr Burn-Murdoch said the evidence pours cold water on the idea comparing Britain to Ireland “is a slam dunk on the impacts of Brexit”.

He added: “So it turns out the answer to [the question] ‘What happened in 2016 to decimate wealth per person in the UK compared to Ireland?’ is actually[:] ‘In 2014 loads of US tech and pharma companies started booking profits in Ireland but taking that money back home to the States’.”

Mr Burn-Murdoch went on to say that while there is lots of evidence Brexit harmed the UK’s economy, both Brexiteers and Remainers “dabble in misinformation”.

Nevertheless, Britain’s economy is on course to eke out growth of 0.4 percent over 2023, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) predicted in its latest quarterly economic forecast published on Tuesday (September 5).

It is a marginal upgrade from the 0.3 percent GDP level previously forecast by the group. GDP will then drop to 0.3 percent over 2024 and nudge up slightly to 0.7 percent over 2025, a downgrade from its previous expectations.

It means the country could avoid falling into a technical recession, defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

After Ireland’s double digit growth last year, the country’s GDP is projected to remain on a solid growth path of 5.5 percent in 2023 and 5.0 percent in 2024, according to the European Commission.

It says exports will continue to drive Ireland’s economic performance, but recent “record performances” of the export-intensive pharma and information and communication sectors are “unlikely to be sustained”.

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