Cross-border trade with UK soars as Irish exports enjoy a record year
Cross-border trade between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland increased substantially in 2017.
Exports from the Republic to Northern Ireland increased by just under a fifth to €1.9bn during the year, according to preliminary figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
Meanwhile, imports from the North to the Republic increased by 17pc to just under €1.3bn.
Overall the UK remained an important trading partner for Ireland, with goods exports to the UK increasing by €1bn or 8pc to €14bn.
The increase in exports to the UK was driven by increases in chemicals and related products, along with food and live animals, which increased by 22pc and 8pc respectively.
Imports from the UK to Ireland also increased during the 12 months, up 10pc to €17bn.
The main increases in imports from the UK were in mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials which grew by almost a third to €2.7bn, and of chemicals and related products, which increased by just over a quarter to €2.3bn.
With just over a year to go until Brexit, the future shape of the trading relationship between the UK and European Union remains unknown.
Alan McQuaid, economist with Merrion, warned yesterday that while we can only speculate as to how Brexit will impact Ireland going forward, there is likely to be a negative impact on trade.
"The UK is the second largest single destination country for Ireland's goods and the largest for its services," Mr McQuaid said.
"At the same time, Ireland imports 30pc of its goods from the UK. While the UK might only account for 16-17pc of Ireland's total exports, 30pc of all employment is in sectors which are heavily related to UK exports."
Businesses in Ireland have been urged to prepare for the worst, in the event that tariffs are imposed post-Brexit on cross-border goods.
In a record year for Irish exports, total exports topped €122bn in 2017. The 2pc increase contributed to a preliminary trade surplus of €45bn for the year, according to the CSO.
Imports also grew to record levels last year, increasing by €2.7bn or 4pc to €76.8bn. The largest increase in exports came from medical and pharmaceutical products, which increased by €5bn (17pc) to €35bn compared with 2016.
Exports of food and live animals also increased by double digits to €11bn.
During the year Irish imports of chemicals and related products increased by €2bn (16pc) to €17bn, while imports of mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials increased by almost a quarter to €4.7bn.
Exports to EU countries increased by 4pc during the year to €63bn, reaffirming the bloc's position as the biggest customer for Irish exports. Similarly, exports to the US increased by 4pc to €33bn.
Meanwhile, imports from EU countries also increased during the period to €45bn.
The figures come in a week when the Irish Academy of Engineering issued a warning on the "over-dependence" on Dublin Port for trade traffic, which the group says raises significant supply security issues in the context of Brexit.
Dublin Port's share of Ireland's roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) traffic has increased from just over 55pc in 1987 to almost 90pc in 2015, a report by the all-island body noted.
At the same time Dublin's share of Ireland's load-on load-off (Lo-Lo) traffic increased from almost 55pc in 1987 to 72.5pc in 2015, the academy said. The report argued that the Government's policy regarding port development appears "wholly unsuited to the problems posed by Brexit".
Except for fuels, ores, grain, animal feed and transport equipment, the vast bulk of Ireland's goods trade is carried in trucks, the report from the Academy of Engineering found.