Trade across Irish border booms after Brexit amid energy growth

Northern Ireland and Ireland are enjoying what appears to be a €4bn (£3.4bn) boost, with inter-country trade booming in both directions post Brexit, figures reveal.

Official government data released in Dublin by the Central Statistics Office showed that imports from Northern Ireland to Ireland increased 23% to €1.9bn between January and May 2022 compared with the same period in 2021.

Trade in the other direction, from Ireland to Northern Ireland, rocketed by 42% to €1.9bn in the same comparative periods.

The increase in movement of food and live animals from Northern Ireland to Ireland was dramatic, rising €119m to €544m.

However, there was a bigger increase in the sale of energy, recorded as “mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials” and likely to refer to North Sea oil and gas.

Sales to Ireland doubled in value from €106m to €218m in the first five months of this year compared with the same period in 2021.

The rise may partly reflect the increase in energy prices this year but also suggests a change in sources as Europe continues to wean itself off Russian supplies in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

The figures also show that imports from Great Britain to the Irish republic have increased, up from €5.2bn in January to May 2021 to €9.3bn in January to May 2022.

Trade barriers caused by Brexit had affected exports to Ireland in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, with paperwork causing new challenges.

The latest CSO figures suggest exporters in Britain have become accustomed to the new systems.

However, the war in Ukraine also appears to be a factor, with the sale of mineral fuels and lubricants to Ireland from Britain almost quadrupling.

In January to May 2021, there were €727m in British exports to Ireland in the sector. This rocketed to just over €3bn for the same period in 2022.

The Northern Ireland trade data chimes with a report, published on Monday by the trade manufacturing body Make UK, which shows that 63% of Northern Ireland exports go to the EU, more than any other nation or region in the UK.

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By value, the biggest jump in exports from Ireland to Northern Ireland was in chemicals and related projects, which went up from €267m to €369m.

The second highest increase by value was in exports of food and live animals to Northern Ireland – up from €498m in the first five months of 2021 to €648m in the same period in 2022.

Northern Ireland’s trade with Ireland has not been impeded by Brexit, unlike the rest of the UK, where exporters face a mountain of paperwork and compliance issues to sell into the EU.

Under the Northern Ireland protocol, which is heavily opposed by unionist political parties, EU law on exports is observed enabling an open border with the republic.