The United Kingdom leaving the European Union carries major consequences for Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is unique in being the only part of the UK with a land border shared with an EU member state. That 300 mile border has historically been an open one, allowing businesses to flourish such that the UK now trades as much with the Republic of Ireland as it does with China.
The UK is Ireland’s largest trading partner and the Republic of Ireland is the 5th largest destination for UK exports. Trade between the North of Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is also significant at around £2.2bn per year1, and it continues to dominate NI’s export market accounting for approximately 32% of total exports. Companies stepping into exporting for the first time can make ‘baby steps’ by experiencing this new move with our very near neighbours before venturing further afield. For information, exports to the EU in total are £3.5bn accounting for over half of NI’s total exports.
Some sectors of the Northern Irish economy are very heavily interdependent on these two islands agri-food is a prime example. Any barriers imposed on trade between the UK and the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU will impact significantly on this sector, which is one of Northern Ireland’s biggest employers.
After Brexit, therefore, the border must not become an impediment to the movement of people, goods, services, and capital.
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