Northern Ireland must not endanger trade with its biggest market in order to “appease the political demands of nationalism,” TUV leader Jim Allister has warned.
His remarks come after new trading figures show that sales from NI to Great Britain outstripped those to the Republic of Ireland by a ratio of more than four to one in 2016.
Exports to GB increased by £281m to £14 billion, up 2% over the year.
Meanwhile, sales to the Republic over the year amounted to £3.4 billion.
Mr Allister said the statistics, published yesterday by the Department for the Economy, “expose the bluster” of calls by nationalists for NI to be granted special status within the EU post-Brexit.
The TUV leader said: “These statistics underscore the reality that the single market which matters most to Northern Ireland is the UK market.
“These facts prove that calls for special status for NI are nonsense. The demand by Sinn Fein and others that Northern Ireland should stay in the EU single market and customs union would disastrously cut us off from our vital GB market.”
The Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics showed that total sales by companies in NI were estimated to be worth £68.9 billion in 2016, an increase of 2.7% over the year.
Sales within NI rose by £829 million to £44.7 billion, the highest level since the survey commenced in 2011.