The Irish Times view of the impact of Brexit on Irish trade: temporary or long lasting?

Clear signs of the impact of the UK’s exit on Irish exports and imports

Will the trade impact of Brexit for Ireland be long-lasting or temporary? Signs so far this year are that Brexit is having a significant effect on company decisions and thus on trade patterns. It is difficult to disentangle how much of this is due to changes in the way existing trade between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Britain is reorganised and how much is a change in underlying trade patterns. But there can be little doubt that what is happening is important.

The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show some dramatic patterns in the first half of this year, with exports from the Republic to the North up to €1.576 billion from €1.1 billion the previous year and imports up to €1.774 billion from just under €1 billion.

Some of this may reflect company reorganisations – for example British companies establishing operations in the North to sell into the Republic. But fundamental trade patters are reacting as well to the new controls between Ireland and Britain and the free trade between the two parts of this island. Irish exports to Britain remain strong, but may take a hit when Britain implements more detailed controls later this year. Meanwhile the presence of new barriers has led to a slump in food imports into Ireland from Britain.

There is an overall economic cost here to all sides, even if some companies win out

While it will take some time for all of this to settle down the trends are not surprising. Trade barriers, even if they just involve new checks and controls, impose a cost and these lead companies to change their behaviour.


Trade between Britain and Ireland will take a hit over time due to Brexit, while between the Republic and the North business should increase. There is an overall economic cost here to all sides, even if some companies win out. Underlying all this, meanwhile, is the ongoing uncertainty about the Northern Ireland protocol. Some businesses will be holding off to see what happens here.

Fortunately for Ireland, overall export trends remain strong, though Brexit provides an ongoing threat to some sectors. As ever, businesses just have to get on with it, but we are seeing the first signs of the fundamental impact of the UK’s exit from the EU trading regime and of the Northern Ireland protocol which keeps the North in important parts of the Single Market.