Goods imports from Britain fall by a third since Brexit

Latest trade statistics show big Brexit impact on flow of goods from Britain

Goods imports from Britain to the Republic have fallen by a third as a result of Brexit while Irish exports to Britain have increased by 26 per cent.

The latest trade figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures reveal a significant Brexit impact on the Irish-British trade since the start of the year.

The value of goods imports from Britain was €6.3 billion, a decrease of 32 per cent or €2.9 billion compared with the same period in 2020.

The largest decreases were in the imports of food and live animals and machinery and equipment.


The CSO said several factors contributed to the large reduction in imports from the Britain, including the challenges of complying with customs requirements.


Marks and Spencer (M&S) said last week that post-Brexit rules and “excessive paperwork” has forced it to cut about 800 lines from its stores in the Republic, roughly 20 per cent of its total range of goods here.

The latest figures show Irish exports to Britain, in contrast, grew by 26 per cent or €1.7 billion to €8.2 billion during the seven-month period.

The largest increases were in the exports of chemicals and related products, and machinery and transport equipment. Exports to Britain accounted for 12 per cent of total goods exports in July.

Brexit has also fuelled a major pick-up in North-South trade. The figures show imports from Northern Ireland increased by €800 million or 60 per cent to €2.1 billion when compared with the same period in 2020.

Exports to Northern Ireland, meanwhile, were up 45 per cent to €1.9 billion .

Under the Northern Ireland protocol, trade in goods with Britain is subject to customs checks. However, while Northern Ireland remains within the customs territory of the UK, it is simultaneously within the EU single market for the movement of goods.

Jarlath O’Keefe, partner in indirect taxes at Grant Thornton Ireland said the July CSO figures for the import and export of goods have confirmed that there has been a significant increase in cross Border trade on the island of Ireland in 2021 following Brexit.

“This is due in part to businesses adjusting their supply chains to avoid the administrative burden associated with importing goods from Britain,” he said.


This means goods moving between Northern Ireland and the Republic are not subject to customs checks.

Some British-based traders have apparently established bases in the North to facilitate trade with the Republic, while some companies in Republic have replaced imports from Britain with imports from the North.

Globally, the CSO figures show the value of total exports fell by 5 per cent to €13.2 billion in July while imports fell by 12 per cent to €8 billion.

This resulted in a seasonally adjusted trade surplus of €5.1 billion, down 11 per cent on the previous month.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times