The value of trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland has rocketed since Brexit with cross-border business increasing in both directions, official data shows.
Figures released on Wednesday by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in Dublin show that the value of imports from Northern Ireland surged by 60% in the first nine months of 2021 and are now valued at €2.8bn (£2.37bn).
Trade in the other direction has also increased, with a 48% rise in exports to Northern Ireland from the republic, bringing the total value of trade to €2.57bn for January to September 2021.
Comparative figures are not available to show any changes in trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain since January as the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency does not collect such data.
However, the CSO figures alone will bolster the arguments by the Brexit minister, Lord Frost, that the UK’s departure from the EU has damaged trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland but boosted traffic with the republic.
He is currently in Northern Ireland for talks with business and political party leaders and told BBC Radio Ulster on Wednesday that the trade links between the region and Great Britain were being “worn away”.
“I think in aggregate, the trade links with Great Britain and Northern Ireland are about three times as big as those with Ireland and the single market. So in aggregate those links in Great Britain are incredibly important. So it’s those [links] that are being sort of worn away by the way the protocol is working, and that’s why it’s so important to deal with them,” he said.
While the trade flows between the republic and Northern Ireland are increasing, the CSO figures show they also represent a fraction of the country’s overall business, accounting for just 2% of exports and 4% of imports.
They also show the negative impact of Brexit on trade between the republic and Great Britain, once its single biggest trading partner.
Although exports were up by 36% to Great Britain, where no Brexit checks yet apply, imports almost flatlined, rising just 2%.
September figures from the CSO showed a 32% year-on-year drop in exports from GB to Ireland in the first seven months of the year, with notable declines in food and live animals, all now subjected to documentary and physical checks on arrival in the republic.
The 2% rise in exports from Great Britain in September compared with the same month in 2020 suggests the decline has been arrested with the overall value of imports for the first nine months down by 21%.
Business leaders have blamed the Brexit checks and controls that now exist at Irish ports and airports, with paperwork and health certification required for all imports from Britain.
Data collected by the CSO is a valuable measure of the impact of Brexit. From January the statistics agency separated out all trade to Northern Ireland in its data to produce monthly reports to account for Brexit.