NORTHERN Ireland’s economy is outperforming the UK’s because of its special relationship with the EU – demonstrating how Scotland is “paying the price” for a Brexit it didn’t support, the SNP say.

New figures set to be released by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research show that the province’s economic growth and profitability is being boosted by its links to EU markets.

The London-based economic think tank cited the Northern Irish Protocol – which the UK Government is currently threatening to override – as a cause for Northern Ireland’s economic performance sitting “slightly” higher than the overall UK average.

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“This is partly an outcome of the Northern Irish Protocol and its special status in the Brexit arrangements, including better trade and investment conditions as part of the EU’s single market and customs union,” the report, due to be released in full on Friday, found.

“Closer links with the EU, through trade and also potentially labour mobility, have benefited Northern Ireland post-Brexit,” it added.

Like Scotland, Northern Ireland voted to Remain at the 2016 Brexit vote – with more than 55% of voters backing the EU.

The province was able to retain special links with the EU while the rest of the UK withdrew from the bloc under an agreement ensuring there would be no hard border on the island of Ireland.

All sides negotiating the Brexit deal accepted that putting up physical infrastructure between the Republic, an EU member, and the north would risk political instability.

The agreed Northern Ireland Protocol stops goods from being checked along the border between the north and the Republic, by requiring these checks to occur at ports in Northern Ireland from products coming from the rest of the UK.

Unionist parties in Northern Ireland want the protocol scrapped, believing it risks their province’s place within the UK.

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As part of anti-protocol arguments, the UK Government has alleged that it has damaged Northern Ireland’s economy and the DUP have claimed, without citing public data, that it is leading to major spikes in retail prices.

The new National Institute of Economic and Social Research report does not back up these claims.

During negotiations, the SNP said they “fully supported” the special arrangements for Northern Ireland but called for Scotland to benefit too. This would mean both Remain-supporting countries would “get something out of Brexit”.

Now the party says the latest report shows the consequences of Scotland being ignored during the Brexit process.

The National:

SNP MSP Clare Adamson (above) told The National: "Once again we see evidence of Scotland paying the price for being ignored by Westminster over a Brexit we didn't vote for.

"The special deal Northern Ireland has with the EU has allowed them to benefit from remaining in the single market. And while the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland are well understood, the fact is their relationship with the EU gives businesses there a competitive advantage over businesses in Scotland.

"It is one of the many reasons the SNP has consistently argued for similar arrangements between Scotland and the EU, since being dragged out of the EU against our will - however the Tory UK government has given Scotland nothing. It is only with independence that Scotland can rejoin the EU and enjoy the benefits of being in the largest single market in the world – a market around seven times bigger than the UK alone."

Alba’s general secretary Chris McEleny argued the report “shattered” Unionists’ arguments about a Scottish Border after independence too.

“The fact that Northern Ireland’s economy is outperforming the rest of the UK’s completely shatters to dust any argument Boris Johnson and his band of usual suspects may have about a border between Scotland and the rest of the UK,” he said. “An independent Scotland could immediately join the European Free Trade Alliance, giving us the instant benefits of access to the worlds largest market place.”

The former Alba councillor added that the statistics show independence needs to be progressed “as an immediate priority”.