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.