SMEs in North behind nearly half of cross-Border trade

New research shows small businesses are key exporters to the Republic from the North

Cross-Border business is more vital to small businesses in the North than larger firms according to new research from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. The study finds that 46 per cent of all trade in value terms between the North and the Republic is conducted by SMEs.

The figures also show that small businesses, employing up to 50 people, account for 93 per cent of the total number of businesses that export to the State.

In its EU Exit analysis briefing document published this week the research agency said that based on historic 2016 trade figures, 7,148 small businesses emerged as the key exporters to the Republic from the North.

The document noted that while the State remains Northern Ireland’s single largest export market – worth £4 billion in 2016 – sales by businesses located in the North to Britain were worth 3.7 times more than Northern Ireland exports to the Republic. The sales to Britain, which totalled £14.6 billion in 2016, were not classified by agency as exports because they were not classified as trade outside of the UK. This strand of trade was dominated by large firms employing 250 or more employees.


Overall NISRA’s EU Exit report shows that in 2016 sales by firms in the North to the Republic represented 35 per cent of all exports from Northern Ireland, 15 per cent of external sales and 5 per cent of total sales by local businesses outside of the North.

The biggest export sector for small businesses in the North to the Republic was food and live animals, which was worth £742 million during 2016.

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell

Francess McDonnell is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business