Opportunities ahead for North, as Brexit deal begins to hit British imports

Trade figures show imports to North rose by €776 million in first half of year

Imports from Britain fell as those from the North rose in the first six months of this year. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Imports from Britain fell as those from the North rose in the first six months of this year. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

The latest trade figures from the Central Statistics Office highlight the disruption brought about by Brexit at the beginning of the year.

Imports from Britain fell by 32 per cent or €2.5 billion in the first six months of this year, according to the data published on Monday. It’s a huge drop, although the decline recorded in June was just 16 per cent, perhaps suggesting that some of the wrinkles in moving goods earlier in the year have been ironed out.

Meanwhile, the level of imports from Northern Ireland rose by €776 million, indicating that Irish buyers and British suppliers are increasingly using the North as a means of getting goods into the Republic.

From January 1st all trade in goods with Britain (excluding the North) is treated as non-EU trade and must be reported to Revenue’s customs declaration systems. This extra red tape and a level of unpreparedness by British exporters has led to significant delays at ports and disruption to the import of many goods.

The North remains a part of the European Union’s single market for the movement of goods under the Northern Ireland Protocol negotiated as part of the UK’s exit deal with the EU. So there are no border checks on goods moving across the border.

Not surprisingly the DUP responded to the figures by highlighting the need to scrap the trade border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Britain, while the SDLP welcomed the figures as highlighting the North’s “competitive advantage”.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, described the rise in the trade figures between north and south as “enormous”, adding that it “proves that market access” is critical for trade.

It’s still early days in the Brexit process, and there are gaps in the trade data between the whole of Ireland and Britain, but the CSO’s statistics suggest there are significant opportunities for Northern Irish producers from the Brexit deal.

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