British trade with Ireland slumps following Brexit

Goods imports from Great Britain to Ireland have dropped by 20% since the UK left the single market, according to data published on Monday by Ireland’s Central Statistics Office. [EPA-EFE/AIDAN CRAWLEY]

Goods exports from Great Britain to Ireland have dropped by 20% since the United Kingdom left the single market, according to data published on Monday by Ireland’s Central Statistics Office.

The CSO reported imports worth €12,501 million between January and November 2021, a decrease of €3,272 million compared with the same period in 2020.

Meanwhile, exports to Great Britain increased by 20% in the same period.

One of the effects of the Northern Ireland protocol, which imposed customs checks on goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland but kept the province in the EU’s single market for goods, has been a major increase in intra-Irish trade.

The protocol has created a situation where Northern Irish exporters stand to benefit from having dual access to both the EU and UK single markets, while importers face their goods being subject to customs checks on both sides, disrupting supply chains.

Imports from Northern Ireland surged by 64% to €3,679 million compared to the first eleven months of 2020, while exports to Northern Ireland from the Republic were up by 48%.

45% of British firms reported difficulties adapting to changes in rules for buying or selling goods brought about by the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, according to a survey published last month by the British Chambers of Commerce.

“These data certainly do illustrate that the issues with the TCA are not ‘teething problems’ but more structural defects that, whilst fixable, if not attended to will lead to long term damage to our economy,” said Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce.

In addition to the extra paperwork caused by the protocol, firms also reported new burdens because of VAT requirements, customs checks and rule of origin requirements.

Business leaders in Northern Ireland told EURACTIV that most British businesses exporting to Northern Ireland were unprepared for life after Brexit, and said that one in five businesses in Northern Ireland businesses had reported that their UK supplier would not trade any more.

UK and EU officials have been locked in negotiations aimed at easing the burden on businesses in Northern Ireland for the past six months, while pro-British Unionist parties in Northern Ireland say that the protocol risks undermining stability in the province.

Last week Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that she would not accept an arrangement that continues to see goods moving within the UK being subject to checks, instead proposing a self-certification scheme on the assumption that most goods would not be travelling beyond Northern Ireland and so need not be checked or be subject to additional paperwork.

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