Irish goods exports to Britain fall 7% amid Brexit uncertainty

Latest trade numbers suggest overall export trade remains strong

Irish goods exports to Britain, the Republic's largest European Union trading partner, were down 7 per cent in the first six months of 2018, according to the latest trade numbers from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

But experts have said it is too premature to link the fall-off to Brexit or the related decline in sterling.

The figures show that exports to Britain for the period January to June were worth €6.7 billion, representing a decrease of €512 million or 7 per cent when compared with the same period last year.

This was largely due to a decrease in exports of chemicals and related products with a smaller decrease in exports of machinery and transport equipment.


Merrion economist Alan McQuaid said much of the State’s export trade is driven by multinationals which are not as directly exposed to Brexit as indigenous Irish firms.

While a weaker sterling, which is currently trading at 89p against the euro, does not help, Mr McQuaid said other business surveys suggest trade with the UK as a whole remains strong and “that the Brexit factor hasn’t hit home yet”.

The CSO figures showed imports from Britain increased by 3 per cent to €8.7 billion in the first six months of 2018 driven by growth in the imports of mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials, which includes transport fuel.

Overall, the value of Irish goods exports rose by 1 per cent to €11.8 billion in June while imports jumped 20 per cent to €7.7 billion, according to the latest trade numbers from the CSO.

This led to a decrease of €1.1 billion (22 per cent) in the seasonally adjusted trade surplus to €4 billion in June.

Medical exports

The main drivers of the monthly figures were exports of medical and pharmaceutical products, which increased by €455 million (14 per cent) to €3.8 billion in June while exports of organic chemicals also increased by €1.1 billion (76 per cent) to €2.7 billion.

Overall the EU accounted for €6.4 billion (51 per cent ) of total Irish goods exports in June, of which €1.6 billion went to Belgium and €1 billion went to Germany.

Antwerp in Belgium is one of the largest global drug redistribution hubs and receives most of the State's pharma exports which are not destined for the United States.

The US was the main non-EU destination, accounting for €3.3 billion (26 per cent) of total exports in June.

The increase in imports was also driven by medical and pharmaceutical products, which rose by 12 per cent to €1.2 billion and imports of food and live animals, which were up 5 per cent to €619 million.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times