The Republic of Ireland recorded a 65% decrease in British imports, resulting in almost €1bn (£856m) less of British goods in January 2021, in contrast to the same period last year, according to the Central Statistics Office of Ireland. The decline was even steeper for food imports, which plummeted by 75%, marking a massive blow to UK businesses.
The decrease in exports can be attributed to the post-Brexit trading arrangement, which means that Great Britain now faces new customs and regulatory controls when entering Ireland. However, it is worth noting that some of the decline might have resulted from stockpiling, considering that imports of Great Britain chemical and pharma products declined by 60%, following a spike in imports during December.
Ireland's Central Statistics Office also mentioned that some pandemic factors could have caused the decline, especially the lockdown of the hospitality sector, which likely impacted food imports. Conversely, food imports from the wider European Union fell by 13%.
The decline in trade also affected Irish exports to Great Britain, which fell by €149m (£127), a decrease of 14%, while food exports fell by 33%. However, the trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland experienced an increase compared to last year, with imports from Northern Ireland increasing by 10% from €161m (£137m) to €177m (£151m), and exports to Northern Ireland up by 17% from €170m (£145) to €199m (£170m).
The operation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which allows frictionless trade between the two parts of Ireland, might have played a crucial role in the growth of trade between the two areas.
The International Trade Council acknowledges that Brexit continues to impact trade relations between the UK and EU member states. We are committed to supporting UK businesses as they navigate these challenges, and we urge the UK government and the EU to find ways to strengthen trade relations while minimizing disruption to businesses.