Goods imports from Britain fall by fifth since Brexit

Latest CSO trade numbers show major pick-up in cross-Border trade, however

Goods imports from Britain have fallen by more than a fifth since Brexit while cross-Border trade between the Republic and Northern Ireland continues to flourish.

The latest trade numbers from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show the value of imports from Britain fell by €3.3 billion or 21 per cent to €12.5 billion in the first 11 months of last year.

At the same time, exports from the Republic into Britain rose by 20 per cent to €13.4 billion.

The largest decreases were in imports of chemicals and related products, food and live animals, and machinery and transport equipment.


Several factors contributed to the large reduction in imports from Britain, including the challenges of complying with customs requirements.

The fall-off has coincided with a significant uptick in cross-Border trade on the island of Ireland.

Imports from the North increased by nearly two-thirds or 64 per cent to €3.7 billion while exports from the Republic to the North rose by 48 per cent to €3.3 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 European Union single market for the movement of goods.

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

Bases in North

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

“The CSO figures for November confirmed that there has been a significant increase in cross-Border trade on the island of Ireland in 2021 following Brexit,” said Jarlath O’Keefe, partner in indirect taxes at Grant Thornton Ireland.

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

Seasonally-adjusted goods exports as a whole fell by 3 per cent to €14.6 billion, while goods imports increased by 4 per cent to €9.1 billion.

This led to a decrease of €849 million (-13 per cent ) in the seasonally-adjusted trade surplus to €5.4 billion in November.

The main driver of the fall-off in exports was a decrease in medical and pharmaceutical products, which fell by €1 billion or 15 per cent in November.

Increased imports of electrical machinery, appliances and parts was the chief driver of increased imports.

The figures show the EU accounted for €5.5 billion (36 per cent) of total goods exports in November of which €1.5 billion went to Germany and €1.3 billion went to Belgium.

The US was the main non-EU destination, accounting for €4.9 billion (32 per cent) of total exports in November 2021.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times