Imports from Britain fall by two-thirds in wake of Brexit

Latest trade statistics show exports to Britain drop by 14% to €946m in January

Imports from Britain fell by almost two-thirds in January after the UK left the EU.

The latest trade statistics from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) reveal an immediate Brexit impact in January as the UK's Brexit transition period came to an end, with the value of imports falling by 65 per cent – from €1.4 billion to €497 million – compared to the same month last year.

The falloff was driven by declines in imports of food and live animals (down 75 per cent to €62 million) and mineral fuels (down 71 per cent to €57 million). There were also declines in chemicals and related products from Britain, and in machinery and transport equipment.

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


Other factors included the stockpiling of goods in the final quarter of 2020 in preparation for Brexit, the substitution with goods from other countries, and a reduction in trade volumes due to the impact of Covid-19.

Exports from here to Britain were also hit, falling by 14 per cent to €946 million. Exports to Britain accounted for 7 per cent of total exports in January.

Globally the CSO figures show goods imports decreased by €907 million (12 per cent) to €6.6 billion in January compared with the previous month.

The value of Irish goods exports, meanwhile, increased by €188 million (1 per cent) to €13 billion.

This gave rise to a seasonally adjusted trade surplus of €6.4 billion, up 21 per cent on the previous month.

The drop in the value of imports was driven by decreases in imports of food and live animals (-35 per cent), petroleum products (-44 per cent) and other transport equipment, including aircraft (-48 per cent).

Pharma exports

Exports of medical and pharmaceutical products, a mainstay of the traded sector here, rose 10 per cent to €5.8 billion in January, but there were falls in exports of organic chemicals, which fell 20 per cent to €2.4 billion.

The EU accounted for €4.4 billion (34 per cent ) of total exports in January, of which €1.3 billion went to Belgium and €1 billion went to Germany. The figures show exports to EU countries in January decreased by 23 per cent compared with January 2020.

The US was the main non-EU destination accounting for €4.9 billion (37 per cent) of exports in January.

Imports from the EU were €2.2 million (39 per cent) of total imports, which is a decrease of €328 million (13 per cent) over the same month in 2020.

Separate figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics, released earlier this month, show overall goods exports from the UK to the rest of the world fell by £5.3 billion, 19.3 per cent, in January. This was driven by a £5.6 billion, or 40.7 per cent , plunge in exports of goods to the EU.

Imports also fell, by £8.9 billion overall (21.6 per cent), while imports from the EU dropped £6.6 billion (28 per cent).

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times