CSO sculpts likely numerical shape of Brexit

Trade figures and movements of people are key statistics to aid our analysis of Brexit

The CSO's Brexit-by-numbers report tells us nothing we didn't already know. That we're economically and socially wedded to our nearest neighbour for a variety of historical and cultural reasons; that the reintroduction of a hard border between Dundalk and Newry would be a mess; that Ireland represents perhaps the biggest potential collateral damage of the Brexit process.

There's now even speculation that we may fare worse than Britain regardless of what type of bespoke arrangement it manages to forge with Brussels, a peculiar post-colonial fate.

That said, there are so many moving parts in this divorce, so many calls to be made between now and 2019 and beyond, that a clear line of sight is not available.

Theresa May has only this week consented to reveal her plan for leaving the EU ahead of triggering formal negotiations next March.

Ill-conceived omni-shambles

The fact that nobody, including the people who opted for this process – the British public – seems to know what the London government is planning or what’s on the table reflects the omni-shambles that is Brexit, a process that seems to have been ill-conceived from the start.

With this in mind, the most the CSO can do at the moment is gather the relevant data in one place so that credible analyses of what’s changing can be conducted. To this end, it is also planning a dedicated Brexit page on its website.

The proportion of the Republic’s exports that flow North and across the Irish Sea, worth €33 billion in 2014/2015, is perhaps the metric that most commentators focus on. While large, it has been falling as a proportion of the State’s overall export trade, declining from 45 per cent to 37 per cent in the past decade. This process is only likely to accelerate under the current cloud of uncertainty but not fast enough for Ireland to avoid a big hit if Britain dips into recession.

The CSO’s report also reveals the complex criss-crossing population flows that prefigure Ireland’s relationship with the UK. This is perhaps the hardest to assess and most difficult to imagine reversing.