Irish trade with Britain and Northern Ireland booms in 2022, but post-Brexit challenges remain

Thu 16 Feb 2023
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

Map of UK and Ireland

Irish trade between Britain and Northern Ireland is continuing to boom despite potential challenges posed by the UK’s departure from the EU and the Northern Ireland Protocol.

According to data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in the Republic of Ireland, the value of British exports into Ireland rose by 55% in 2022 compared to 2021, while imports went up by 19%. Northern Irish imports into Ireland climbed by 32% while Irish exports to the region increased by 31%.

However, in the month of December 2022, British exports to Ireland fell by 10% compared with December 2021.

Challenges remain

The stats come just before a free webinar from the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) on initiatives being considered to further booster UK-Ireland trade.

IOE&IT director of strategic projects and international development Kevin Shakespeare, who will be speaking on next week’s webinar, welcomed the positive stats but said that industry and government can work together to support businesses trading over the Irish Sea.

He said:

“While it’s positive that trade between Ireland, Britain and Northern Ireland has increased in the last couple of years, traders are still encountering new challenges adapting to new customs requirements following Brexit.

“For instance, before Brexit, Irish traders could move goods through Britain to the EU via the ‘GB landbridge’ but post EU exit requirements have made this more difficult. This not only complicates things for traders, but also has a significant environmental impact, with many Irish traders now moving goods via the Dublin-Calais route instead.

“The webinar on Monday will look at some of the possible solutions currently being considered to better support goods moving between the Britain and Ireland, while assessing how the GB landbridge could be made more viable again for traders.

“Traders looking to learn more about the potential benefits of initiatives like digital trade corridors, NCTS 5 and freeports should definitely sign up to this webinar.”

NI Protocol

Trade between Britain and Northern Ireland has also changed since Brexit, due to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The application of the protocol’s rules have been discussed in talks between the UK and EU since Brexit, but there has reportedly been progress in the negotiations in recent weeks, leading to hopes of an agreement being reached in the coming weeks.

According to Bloomberg, officials are close to finding technical solutions to issues around customs, state aid, and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks on agrifoods.

However, the Telegraph reports that British firms sending goods into the region will need to comply with the same EU safety standards as their Chinese counterparts, following a Brussels overhaul of rules for consumer goods including toys, electronic goods and cosmetics.

Irish records

Commenting on the CSO stats, Ciarán Counihan, a statistician in the unit’s international trade in goods division, said Ireland’s exports in general reached record levels in 2022.

“In 2022, Ireland’s exports of goods reached a record level of €208bn, an increase of more than €42bn compared with 2021,” he said.  “Imports also reached a record level of €140bn in 2022, up 35% compared with 2021.”