Brexit: collapse in UK exports gives Republic of Ireland a trade surplus
A collapse in UK exports to the Republic of Ireland since Brexit has given Dublin an extraordinary trade surplus with London, new figures show.
The Irish government says the new trade bureaucracy explains a € 2 billion drop in the value of merchandise sales – 47.6% in the first quarter of this year, compared to early 2020.
It is revealed after the extension of ferry routes between the country and France, to bypass UK ports mired in additional paperwork brought by Boris Johnson’s trade deal.
Figures, released by Dublin, suggest its companies have switched to buying products directly from EU countries, rather than across the Irish Sea.
Part of the huge drop is attributed to a consequence of storage at the end of last year, but “asymmetry of customs procedures” is seen as the main cause.
As proof, the report indicates that Irish merchandise exports to Great Britain fell only 2.6% over the same period.
The Republic now has a surplus with Britain despite a population of less than five million – while the UK is still Europe’s second-largest economy.
These figures are the first published since the UK left the EU’s single market and customs union at the end of the post-Brexit transition period on December 21.
They follow similarly grim statistics for trade with the EU, which showed a 25 percent drop through April, covering the first 4 months of the new era.
This masked calamitous drop in food and drink exports – down £ 2 billion, or 47% from the same period in 2020, with dairy exporters hardest hit.
Separate figures for trade between Britain and Ireland would not be revealed in UK statistics, but the Dublin government separates them from imports and exports with Northern Ireland.
The report notes: “At present, there is an asymmetry in the customs controls required on cross-border trade between the EU and the UK.
“To export goods from the UK to the EU, businesses must now comply with new procedures such as UK export declarations and EU member state import requirements.”
The figures also show – probably to the alarm of Unionists in the north – a sharp increase in trade on the island of Ireland, as outlets there turn to the south for more products.
Merchandise exports to Northern Ireland increased 22.4% year-on-year, while imports to the Republic climbed 44.2%.
Additional ferry services between Ireland and the mainland have been dubbed the ‘Brexit buster’ routes, threatening business at ports such as Holyhead and Liverpool.
At Rosslare, crossings and freight capacity for haulage shipments to France quadrupled in a single month. Other ships are rerouted from Belfast, Liverpool and Holyhead to Dublin-France services.