Survey shows Northern Ireland manufacturers are adjusting to post-Brexit trading rules

Thu 13 Jan 2022
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Northern Ireland manufacturers are making “significant” strides in getting to grips with the trading implications of the NI Protocol, according to a survey of businesses in the region.

A survey by Manufacturing NI found the number of businesses saying they were struggling with the protocol was down from 40% six months ago to less than a quarter.

According to the FT, the findings will add weight to demands from NI businesses for the EU and the UK to settle their differences over the protocol.

Simpler rules please

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of Manufacturing NI, said while the responses showed that manufacturers were “overcoming issues”, but that there were “still problems” with businesses showing a “strong desire” for the two sides to make the rules simpler for the benefit of business and the economy.

Kelly said NI manufacturers were increasingly grasping opportunities presented by the region’s unique position straddling the EU and UK, and were picking up more business in GB and in the EU.

The number of companies reporting negative impacts on sales to Great Britain fell from one-third to one-fifth since July.

The number reporting problems with EU suppliers also fell sharply.

Local sourcing

The Belfast Telegraph reports that NI retailer, the Henderson Group has avoided the product shortages some competitors have faced by sourcing more products locally.

Paddy Doody, Henderson’s sales and marketing director, said: “Our long-term local sourcing strategy has allowed us to take a strong advantage against the multiples who are suffering with delays and shortages due to the NI Protocol.”

The company has invested £19.4m to open 28 stores, including the Spar brand, last year and has 26 projects in the pipeline this year.

TSS usage

More than 45,000 businesses are now registered with HMRC’s Trader Support Service (TSS), the government’s border solution to keeping goods flowing between GB and NI.

TSS was launched in January 2021 to ease the administrative burden of traders affected by new rules under the NI Protocol.

The total number of reported goods movements created by TSS since 1 January was 455,902, involving more than 1,596,804 consignments (as of December 21).

Protocol talks resume

Foreign secretary and Brexit minister Liz Truss is meeting her counterpart, European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic, for talks on the protocol today.

At lunchtime, Sefcovic tweeted photos of himself and Truss strolling aound the grounds of Chevening (the Kent-based grace and favour home occupied by the foreign secretary), stressing that his objectives for the talks were "stability, predictability in NI". 

In advance of the meeting Truss underlined her red lines, writing in the Telegraph. “Let me be clear: I will not sign up to anything …which still sees goods moving within our own country being subject to checks,” she said.

Such hardball will play well with the Tory faithful in the event of leadership contest, according to Politico, which claims that ‘PM Truss’ could have a deal wrapped up before the NI Assembly elections in May.