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Northern Ireland companies make £70bn in sales of goods and services after post-Brexit exports rise

By Margaret Canning

Northern Ireland companies made £68.9bn in sales of their goods and services in 2016 - up 2.7% over the year, according to detailed figures.

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And the Broad Economy Sales and Export Statistics (BESES), a more in-depth take on figures published in December, said the sale of goods increased 2.4% on 2015 to reach £49.4bn.

The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra) report also said sales of services were worth £19.5bn, a jump of 3.4%.

And revenue from markets outside Northern Ireland was growing, with external sales - a classification which includes sales to Great Britain - rising by 4.2% to reach £24.1bn in 2016.

Exports of goods and services to countries outside the UK, including the Republic, were estimated to be worth £10.1bn in 2016, an increase of 7.3%. Exports had fallen by 1.6% during 2015.

And there was an increase of nearly 6% in goods exported in 2016, compared to a fall of nearly 2% in 2015. Services exports soared by 15% to reach £240bn.

Around £3.4bn in goods and services were sold to the Republic, £2.3bn to the rest of the EU, and £4.4bn to the rest of the world beyond the EU.

Manufacturing accounted for more than half of all exports.

Ulster Bank chief economist Esmond Birnie said: "Comparing 2016 with 2015, NI recorded some very good export growth performances, e.g. up by 9% in cash value to EU beyond the Republic of Ireland and up by 10% to the rest of the world beyond the EU.

"The latter may be an important statistic in the context of any post-Brexit trade deals with the wider and more distant world economies."

Dr Birnie said that the devaluation of sterling following the EU Referendum may have helped export sales, as goods from the UK became cheaper. But he added: "That said, that devaluation only occurred in the middle of the year and some of the benefits may also feed through into the 2017 data when we see that."

And Dr Birnie said trade was still weighted towards 'goods' rather than 'services'.

"In 2016 exports of £8.3bn of goods compared to £1.8bn of services, ie around 80% of exports were in goods.

"Within goods the largest category was still manufacturing - producing about £6bn of that or about three-fifths of the total.

"So manufacturing represents about one-tenth of Northern Ireland employment and 14% of GVA but more than half of all exports."

For services, at 72.7% the majority of sales were made in the domestic market.

Nisra said: "The more distant the market, the smaller the proportion of sales of services becomes, with 17.9% of sales in Great Britain and 9.4% of sales exported."

Belfast Telegraph