Trade between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland increased in the first four months of 2021 as companies in the Irish Republic look to sidestep customs checks on imports from Great Britain.
According to the Irish Times, there was a 60% increase in goods imported from NI to the Republic and a 40% increase in goods movement the other way.
British exports to the Republic of Ireland have “collapsed”, claims the Independent. Figures from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) show they were down by 20% with the biggest decreases in food and live animals, and chemicals and related products.
Northern Ireland is part of both the EU customs union and the UK customs union but has no hard border to the south, giving it a unique status.
Goods moving between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic are not subject to customs checks as both territories remain within the EU customs union.
A CSO spokesman said some British companies had established NI bases to make it easier to trade with the Irish Republic.
The Times reports that goods moving between GB and Northern Ireland are facing more than 650 checks a day, with entry document checks in NI making up one in five of all EU border checks.
British trade paramount
However, a report compiled by Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy and seen by the Belfast News Letter sets out benefits of Northern Ireland’s trade with GB over the Irish Republic.
The report presents statistics on where the bulk of Northern Ireland’s goods come from, showing there are “five times more reasons” to prioritise trade with GB as opposed to the Irish Republic.
Northern Ireland sold £6.6bn of goods to GB in 2018, compared with £3.2bn to Ireland and £2.1bn to the rest of the EU. Britain was also the biggest provider of inward investment with £490m between 2014-19 – more than three times the amount from the Republic.
Demands ‘a problem’
Yesterday’s Dublin meeting between Irish and UK ministers has highlighted their differences over the NI protocol, reports the Irish Times, with Simon Coveney saying the UK’s demands for “radical change” were “a problem”.
Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis said the UK had provided more than a dozen papers to help with a “pragmatic, flexible approach to achieve a result that will work for the people of Northern Ireland while still respecting the focus the EU has on its single market”.