Trade across the Irish border - Statistics & Facts

With the United Kingdom (UK) making plans to leave the European Union (EU), it is still uncertain about how this will impact trade between the UK and the remaining EU countries. Recent discussions within the UK government have been centered on how to negotiate new customs agreements and tariffs on products and services, as well as the pressing issue of what will happen with the UK’s only land border, the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (UK). In 2016, total trade across the Irish border valued at approximately 3.3 billion euros, with trade flowing North to South and South to North accounting for similar shares, at 1.63 billion and 1.65 billion, respectively.

For the two Irish nations, the significance of this trade to the overall economy is remarkably different, with cross border relations playing a much more important role in Northern Ireland than in the Republic of Ireland. In 2016, exports to Ireland accounted for around 15 percent of goods and services sold outside Northern Irish borders and were worth over one billion pounds more than exports to the rest of the EU combined. When considering just sales outside of the UK (so not including Great Britain), Ireland makes up 35 percent of the goods and services leaving the country.

In the Republic of Ireland, these figures are considerably lower. Looking at just the merchandise trade, Northern Irish exports were worth around 1.9 billion euros out of a total of 122.5 billion euros in 2016, a share of approximately 1.6 percent. Northern Irish imports, meanwhile, accounted for approximately 1.3 billion euros out of a total of 79 billion euros that year, again with share of roughly 1.6 percent. This does not mean, however, that it will not be in interests of Ireland to secure existing trade relationships after the UK leaves the EU, with Great Britain making up a much greater share of goods imports and exports, at 22.1 percent and 11.8 percent, respectively.

Recent surveys have shown that cross border firms across Ireland and Northern Ireland have begun to anticipate how Brexit could affect their businesses, with 40 percent expecting an impact on sales and 33 percent predicting that the cost of inputs will be affected. As a result, businesses with cross border sales are around four percent more likely to have made plans for dealing with Brexit than the overall percentage of businesses across the island. Worryingly, a large proportion of the businesses involved in cross-border trade are smaller businesses with not so many employees. In Northern Ireland, around 4,393 businesses exporting to the Republic of Ireland have up to nine employees, compared to just 97 businesses with more than 250 employees.

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Recommended statistics

Recommended statistics

Northern Ireland: number of retail businesses selling to external countries 2011-2016
Number of wholesale & retail businesses exporting from Northern Ireland 2011-2016
Value of external sales & exports from Northern Ireland (UK) 2016, by destination
Distribution of exports from Northern Ireland (UK) 2016, by destination
Northern Ireland: number of businesses exporting to Great Britain (UK) 2016, by size
Value of exports to Great Britain from Northern Ireland (UK) 2016, by business size
Northern Ireland (UK): number of businesses exporting to Ireland 2016, by size
Value of exports to Ireland from Northern Ireland (UK) 2016, by business size
Average value of exports to Ireland from Northern Ireland (UK) 2016, by business size
Average value of imports from Ireland to Northern Ireland (UK) 2015, by business size
Number of exports to Ireland from Northern Ireland (UK) 2016, by size of business
Share of firms sourcing products outside EU in Northern Ireland (UK) 2015, by size
Cross border trade between Ireland & Northern Ireland (UK) 1995-2016, by trade flow
Ireland & Northern Ireland (UK): value of North to South goods trade 2016, by sector
Ireland & Northern Ireland (UK): value of South to North goods trade 2016, by sector
Ireland & Northern Ireland (UK): North to South services trade value 2016, by sector
Share of firms trading with Northern Ireland (UK) in Ireland 1999-2015, by trade flow
Northern Irish imports out of total for merchandise trade in Ireland 2005-2017
Northern Irish exports out of total for merchandise trade in Ireland 2005-2017
Distribution of trade from Ireland to Northern Ireland (UK) 2016, by product
Distribution of trade to Ireland from Northern Ireland (UK) 2016, by product
Cross border firms: sales performance in Ireland & Northern Ireland Q4 2016 - Q4 2017
Cross border firms: employment level in Ireland & Northern Ireland Q4 2016 - Q4 2017
Cross border firms: expected impacts of Brexit in Ireland & Northern Ireland 2018
Share of businesses who have made Brexit plans in Ireland & Northern Ireland Q2 2018
Exports from Great Britain out of total for merchandise trade in Ireland 2005-2017
EU member states' exports out of total for merchandise trade in Ireland 2005-2017
Imports from United Kingdom (UK) out of total for services trade in Ireland 2006-2016
Exports from United Kingdom (UK) out of total for services trade in Ireland 2006-2016

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