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Trade across the Irish border - Statistics & Facts

The United Kingdom (UK) is officially outside of the European Union as of January 1, 2021. The Withdrawal Agreement concluded between the UK and the EU was key with regards to setting the terms of the relationship between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which remained in the EU. The Agreement included a special protocol that clarified one of the trickiest issues of the Brexit process: the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the new customs agreements and tariffs on products and services traded between South and North. Honoring the progress made thanks to the Good Friday Agreement, the protocol ensured that there was no land border. Additionally, while technically out of the EU, Northern Ireland continued trade with the Republic of Ireland without checks or tariffs imposed. Trade on the island continues with minimal friction, which was a priority for businesses with already established supply chains. In 2018, total trade across the Irish border was valued at approximately 7.4 billion euros, with trade flowing North to South accounting for a larger share, at 4.7 billion compared to South to North trade, which was valued at 2.7 billion euros that year.

North to South trade

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 2019, exports to Ireland accounted for around 20 percent of goods and services sold outside Northern Irish borders and were worth over two 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 38 percent of the goods and services leaving the country.

South to North trade

In the Republic of Ireland, these figures are considerably lower. Looking at just the merchandise trade, Northern Irish exports were worth around 2.3 billion euros out of a total of 162 billion euros in 2020, a share of approximately 1.44 percent. Northern Irish imports, meanwhile, accounted for approximately 2.4 billion euros out of a total of 87 billion euros that year, again with share of roughly 2.8 percent. This does not mean, however, that Northern Ireland's trade relationship with Great Britain post-Brexit requires less attention, with Great Britain making up a much greater share of goods imports and exports, at 20 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively.



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