Irish exports to Britain rise despite Brexit uncertainty

Latest figures show trade between Republic and Britain remains strong

The value of goods imports from Britain for the period also rose – by 12%  to €8.2bn. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

The value of goods imports from Britain for the period also rose – by 12% to €8.2bn. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

 

The value of Irish good exports to Britain rose by nearly 10 per cent in the first five months of this year despite the uncertainty of Brexit and the current weakness in sterling, which makes Irish produce more expensive in the UK.

Central Statistics Office (CSO) figures show exports to Britain, the Republic’s largest EU trading partner, rose by €486 million to more than €6 billion between January and the end of May. The uptick was driven by increased exports of chemicals and mineral fuels.

The value of goods imports from Britain for the period also rose – by 12 per cent to €8.2 billion.

A no-deal Brexit, with the imposition of World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs, raises the prospect of sharp increases in costs for Irish importers and a separate and simultaneous reduction in demand for Irish exports, both of which are expected to have a damaging impact here.

The CSO’s latest trade numbers show the value of all Irish goods exports rose by 5 per cent to €13.2 billion in May, while imports fell by 8 per cent to €6.7 billion. This resulted in an adjusted trade surplus for May of €6.5 billion, the second largest of the year.

The strong performance comes despite signs of a EU-wide slowdown and rising US-China trade tensions.

The figures show the value of goods exports for January-May was €64 billion, an increase of nearly €7.5 billion or 13 per cent when compared with the same period last year.

The biggest rate of change in exports was organic chemicals, which increased by nearly €1.8 billion (98 per cent) to €3.6 billion in May. Exports of medical and pharmaceutical products decreased by 19 per cent to €3.6 billion.

Pharmaceuticals

The State’s export trade is dominated by pharmaceuticals, which account for more than 60 per cent of total goods exports because of the strong multinational pharma manufacturing base here.

The EU accounted for €6.8 billion (50 per cent) of total goods exports in May, of which €1.5 billion and €1.4 billion went to Germany and Belgium respectively. Antwerp is one of the largest global drug redistribution hubs, and receives most of the State’s pharma exports which are not destined for the US.

The US was the main non-EU destination accounting for just under €3.7 billion or 28 per cent of total exports in May.

The value of goods imports for January-May was €34.5 billion, which is an increase of 3 per cent on last year.

Imports of transport equipment, including aircraft, decreased by €458 million (37 per cent) to €789 million.

Imports of office machines and automatic data processing machines, meanwhile, increased by €183 million (60 per cent) to €489 million.