Republic’s trade with Britain still strong despite Brexit worry

Latest CSO trade numbers show Irish exports to Britain rose 16% in February

Freight at Dublin Port: the State  had a trade surplus of €6.3bn  in February.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Freight at Dublin Port: the State had a trade surplus of €6.3bn in February. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Irish exports to Britain jumped 16 per cent in February despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, the latest trade statistics reveal.

According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO), goods exports to Britain, the Republic’s largest EU trading partner, increased by €166 million to €1.2 billion in February compared with the same month last year.

The increase was driven by exports of mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials. The figures show exports to Britain accounted for 10 per cent of total exports.

Imports from Britain increased by €265 million (19 per cent ) to €1.6 billion in February, again driven by increased imports of mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials. Imports from Britain accounted for 26 per cent of total imports during the month.

A disorderly or 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 will hurt income here.

The figures show that overall Irish goods exports fell by €604 million (4 per cent) to €13.2 billion in February, while good imports increased by €265 million (4 per cent) to €6.9 billion. This resulted in a trade surplus of €6.3 billion.

Global threats

The strong performance comes amid signs of a global slowdown in trade, threats from Brexit and faltering US-China trade relations.

The value of goods exports for the period January and February was €26.3 billion, an increase of nearly €4 billion or 17 per cent when compared with the first two months of 2018.

The biggest rate of growth in exports was of organic chemicals, which increased by €1.1 billion (68 per cent) to €2.9 billion in February.

The Republic’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 figures show the EU accounted for just over €6 billion or 48 per cent of total goods exports in February, of which €1.6 billion went to Belgium.

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 single largest export destination, accounting for €3.7 billion or 29 per cent of total exports in February.

The value of good imports for January and February was €13 billion, which is an increase of 1 per cent on last year. Imports of other transport equipment, including aircraft, decreased by €236 million (20 per cent) to €931 million in February.