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Sharp drop in Brexit trade set to reverse after UK exports fall by £1bn 

The fall off in trade in the first quarter of 2021 was expected

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There have been tens of thousands of inspections at the likes of Dublin and Rosslare Ports on goods coming into Ireland. Photo: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

There have been tens of thousands of inspections at the likes of Dublin and Rosslare Ports on goods coming into Ireland. Photo: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

There have been tens of thousands of inspections at the likes of Dublin and Rosslare Ports on goods coming into Ireland. Photo: Aidan Crawley/Bloomberg

Recent monthly plunges in UK-Irish trade won’t last, experts say, as new UK figures show average exports to Ireland are up on previous years.

At ACCA’s business leaders forum yesterday, the British-Irish Chamber of Commerce and advisory firm BDO said negative post-Brexit predictions were “overdone” and that trade will rebound later this year.

“The depth and respect of relationships, consumer preferences, market knowledge, geo-cultural synergies, trust in supply chains that have grown over decades will not be eroded because of Brexit,” said John McGrane, director-general of the British-Irish Chamber.

“The fall off in trade in the first quarter of 2021 was expected, with many businesses stockpiling in anticipation of disruption, which naturally creates a future deficit,” said Carol Lynch, a partner at BDO Customs & International Trade. “When combined with the closure of the UK and Irish retail and hospitality sectors for most of the year, the drop in imports and exports does not paint the full picture.”

UK exports to Ireland fell by a billion pounds - or 47.3pc - in January compared with December 2020, largely because of stockpiling, the UK’s Office for National Statistics said yesterday. It was the largest fall of any of the UK’s top export partners since the Brexit trade deal came into force on January 1.

But the data also showed that average exports to Ireland between October 2020 and March 2021 were higher than for the same period in 2019-20 and in 2017-18.

Figures from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office last week showed that goods imports from the UK were down by a third in March, compared to the same period in 2020 – following much larger falls in January and February - while Irish goods exports to the UK went up by 13pc.

"Whilst businesses may have to adapt to new processes, there is strong demand for Irish goods and services. With support, businesses will find innovative solutions to overcome the challenges of the recent trade disruption,” said Mr McGrane.

However, the UK survey found that 38pc of businesses that have exported in the last 12 months say additional paperwork is a challenge when exporting to Ireland and the EU.

Overall, total UK-EU trade fell by 20.3pc between the last quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of this year.

The head of the EU’s international trade committee, German MEP Bernd Lange, said yesterday that trade volumes had “reduced quite significantly” on both sides of the Channel. 

The figures come as MEPs near a deal on how to share out the EU’s €5bn Brexit adjustment fund. It is due to be signed off by the full Parliament in June.

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Last month, EU diplomats suggested shaving €200m from Ireland’s proposed €1.1bn share of the funding to offer more to France and other EU countries.

MEPs are proposing a less severe cut in Ireland’s allocation, although the final figure has yet to be released. and the Commission wants to pay the bulk of the funding this year.


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