Northern Ireland tops UK in post-pandemic recovery with 'Protocol pragmatists' sensing opportunity

Tue 30 Nov 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

NI recovery

Northern Ireland’s economy has had the best recovery from Covid-19 of any area in the UK, according to a new dataset from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The region’s output in Q3 2021 was only 0.3% below that of the final quarter of 2019, before the pandemic.

Recent government trade data last month also showed that Northern Ireland was the only region in the UK with growing imports in the first half of the year, compared with the same period in 2020.

UK output down

The country’s overall economic output was down 2.1% on pre-pandemic levels, the FT reports, with London, the second-best performing area, seeing output down 1.8%.

By comparison, economic output in the West Midlands was still nearly 10% off 2019.

The figures follow attempts by the ONS to provide more timely regional data, and it has warned that it should be treated with some caution as they are “subject to a degree of uncertainty”.

NI opportunity

Northern Ireland is being presented with “significant opportunities” by the Northern Ireland Protocol, according to some politicians.

Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) councillor John Kyle said it could bring a “unique advantage”, a position that puts him at odds with most Unionists who want the Protocol scrapped.


Kyle told the BBC that benefits could accrue if “serious problems” were addressed.

“Businesses in Northern Ireland will be able to export to the European Union without the regulatory restrictions that are placed on all other businesses in Great Britain,” he said.

Pragmatism first

It is a view shared by NI manufacturers, reports RTE, which quotes Stephen Kelly, CEO of trade body Manufacturing NI, who said that “80% of manufacturers are Protocol pragmatists” who want the Protocol to work so they can get on with business.

The BBC has previously reported that Brexit could make NI attractive as distribution hub for businesses moving goods into the EU and GB.

Because NI remains effectively within the EU single market, goods entering NI directly under the EU’s customs code benefit from free circulation within the EU and unfettered access to GB, according to thinktank, the IIEA.

Keep the Protocol

With Lord Frost still negotiating the implementation of the Protocol with the EU, NI businesses have  spoken out against the idea scrapping of it, reports the Express.

Policy manager at Logistics UK, Seamus Leheny, said the new customs arrangement has been praised by the US and Canadian governments as providing “unique” dual access to the EU and the UK.