Exports from North to Republic rise by £540m to £3.9bn

Sales to Britain and rest of EU decline for 2017

The  statistics will serve to underline the concerns of many business leaders in the North who have consistently warned that a no-deal Brexit scenario would be catastrophic. Photograph: Alan Betson

The statistics will serve to underline the concerns of many business leaders in the North who have consistently warned that a no-deal Brexit scenario would be catastrophic. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Export sales by Northern businesses to customers in the Republic grew by £540 million (€600 million) last year to £3.9 billion, new official statistics have revealed.

But while exports to the Republic jumped by 16.2 per cent, sales by Northern firms to customers in Britain fell by more than 20 per cent, or £2.9 billion during 2017. The figures are contained within a new report from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA).

Britain remains the biggest single market for external sales from the North - accounting for 17 per cent of total sales and worth £11.3 billion last year - but it is the first time in the survey’s history that sales to Britain from businesses in the North have declined.

According to NISRA overall sales by companies in the North to markets outside of Northern Ireland decreased by £1.1 billion last year to £66.6 billion.

The latest trade statistics will serve to underline the concerns of many business leaders in the North who have consistently warned that a no-deal Brexit scenario would be catastrophic.

NISRA said the sharp drop in total sales from the North last year was chiefly because of a “substantial decline in the food, beverages and tobacco sub sector”.

Its latest report shows that exports from Northern Ireland to the EU, excluding the Republic, fell by £269 million to £2 billion, while sales by businesses in the North to the rest of the world increased by £195 million to £4.3 billion.

Fresh warning

Meanwhile one of the UK’s largest trade organisations has issued a fresh warning about the future outlook for Northern Ireland businesses if the UK leaves the EU without a deal in place.

Seamus Leheny, the Northern Ireland policy manager for the UK’s Freight Transport Association, said it was crucial to bear in mind during the current negotiations that many “Made in NI” products contain parts and ingredients from the Republic because of the nature of supply chains.

Mr Leheny said 70 per cent of the 2.4 million trucks each year entering the North from the Republic are carrying intermediate goods such as ingredients and components.

“If we have tariffs and regulatory controls on cross-border goods then we make those goods we sell to Britain less competitive in price and even risk their existence,” Mr Leheny warned.