No-deal Brexit poses a real threat to North’s trade with Republic

Republic is comfortably North’s largest marketplace, outstripping the rest of the EU

Food and live animals made up 33 per cent of all Northern Ireland’s goods exports to the Republic. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Food and live animals made up 33 per cent of all Northern Ireland’s goods exports to the Republic. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

 

More than a third of Northern Ireland’s exports in 2016 were bound for the Republic, laying bare the threat that a hard border or a no-deal Brexit would pose to the North’s economy.

The total value of Northern Ireland’s exports was £10.1 billion (€11.1 billion), of which £3.4 billion (34 per cent) were to the Republic, making it comfortably the North’s largest marketplace, outstripping the entirety of the rest of the EU, which accounted for £2.3 billion (23 per cent).

The threat is further crystallised by the estimate that more than one in five businesses in the North either exported to or imported from the Republic during the year.

More worryingly still, given the added exposure of perishable items to cross-Border delays, food and live animals made up 33 per cent of all Northern Ireland’s goods exports to the Republic. This was followed by machinery and transport equipment, which made up 16 per cent.

It’s not just the North’s export market that’s exposed either, with 28 per cent of its total goods imports coming from the Republic. Again, food and animals made up the bulk of this, at 41 per cent. That was followed by manufactured goods, which comprised 14 per cent.

East-west trade

In the event the UK crashes out of the EU in March without a withdrawal agreement, trade across the Irish Sea would also be under threat. The Republic was the UK’s fifth-largest export market and the ninth-largest source of imports in 2017.

The Republic has recorded a trade deficit with the UK every year since 1999. Last year UK exports here were worth £34 billion, a record high, up from £28.1 billion in 2016. It was the first year-on-year increase in British exports to the Republic since 2010.

Total Irish exports to the UK were valued at £21.8 billion, which was also a record high and the fifth successive year they have grown.

Looking at trade in goods only, the Republic imported £20.3 billion from the UK, again a record high. Irish exports to the UK were £14.5 billion, also a record high, resulting in a trade deficit of £5.8 billion in trade in goods.

The Republic also suffered a trade deficit in services of £6.4 billion, having imported £13.7 billion and exported £7.3 billion. Irish exports of services to the UK nonetheless reached a record high and have now grown every year since 2000.

The Republic’s single largest goods import from the UK was petroleum and petroleum products, valued at £1.4 billion, representing 7.4 per cent of all UK goods imported here.

Other imports included “miscellaneous manufactured articles”, valued at £1.3 billion. This category includes plastic goods, and medicinal and pharmaceutical products.

The Republic’s single largest goods export to the UK were medicinal and pharmaceutical products, valued at £2.8 billion, representing almost a fifth of all goods exported there.

Other goods

Other goods exported included meat, valued at £1.6 billion (10.9 per cent), telecoms equipment, valued at £1.3 billion (8.7 per cent), and dairy products and eggs, valued at £800 million (5.3 per cent).

In terms of services, the Republic’s single largest import from the UK was “other business services”, which includes legal, accounting, advertising, research and development, architectural, engineering and other professional and technical services.

This category was valued at £8 billion, which represented 59 per cent of all UK service imports here.

Other British services imported by the Republic included financial services, valued at £1.5 billion (11 per cent) and travel services, valued at £1.6 billion (12 per cent).

The Republic’s single largest service export to the UK was “other business services” followed by travel services. Combined, these categories made up 57 per cent of service exports to the UK and were worth more than £4.1 billion.

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