Major report suggests Irish Sea border boosts NI / ROI ties – and severs GB ones

There has been a gigantic upswell in trade between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland since the Irish Sea border came into effect.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 11:44 am
Larne Port NI

That is one of the key points contained in a report by the UK’s National Audit Office into post-Brexit arrangements, published this morning.

To gauge the effect on trade of the Irish Sea border (which was brought into being by the NI Protocol), the auditors looked at figures from the Republic of Ireland’s Central Statistics Office (CSO).

These showed that exports from Ireland to Northern Ireland between January and August 2021 “increased by 47% compared with the previous year”.

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Meanwhile “goods imports from Northern Ireland to Ireland had also increased by 61% over the same period year-on-year”.

Whilst the coronavirus pandemic will have skewed the figures, it adds that they “may also indicate that trade is diverting from GB-NI trade routes to Ireland-NI trade routes”.

On January 31, 2020, the UK formally left the EU.

A transition period was in place though, meaning very little changed.

Then on December 31, 2020, the transition period ended and the NI Protocol came into effect.

Nevertheless, a number of grace periods are still in place, protecting certain sectors from the full brunt of the protocol.

It is not clear when these will end.

For example, the grace period for medicines coming from GB to NI is meant to expire on January 1, 2022, but at the moment it looks like it is being kept going indefinitely.

Elsewhere in the report, figures show that the amount of money going on building the bricks-and-mortar of the Irish Sea border is eclipsed by the amount the government is spending to help firms overcome that border.

It says “the government’s current allocated funding for infrastructure required for checks at the border” stands at £470m (though it does not break down how much is being spent in NI vs GB).

Meanwhile, £500m+ has been earmarked “to support businesses trading in Northern Ireland”.

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