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NI's trade with Republic booming since Brexit

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Lord Frost

Lord Frost

PA

Lord Frost

Post-Brexit trade between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland boomed in February, although imports from Great Britain were hit hard.

Goods imports from Britain were down by more than half (-53%) in February this year compared to last year, the Republic's Central Statistics Office (CSO) said yesterday.

But imports from Northern Ireland almost doubled (+95%) in the same period.

Exports to England, Scotland and Wales held up better, falling by just 11% in February 2021 compared to last year. But exports to Northern Ireland were up by 38%. The CSO said Irish goods imports from Britain fell by 53%, or €742m (£653), to €650m (£565m) in February this year compared to February 2020.

The Republic's exports to Britain were down 11%, or €107m (£93m), to €859m (£746m) in February, with food and live animals seeing the biggest fall - despite the UK government delaying the introduction of its full customs code until next year.

The UK Government has also unilaterally extended grace periods on food and live animals coming into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, which the EU says is a breach of the 2019 Brexit deal.

EU and UK Brexit envoys were meeting yesterday in Brussels to work out a compromise.

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Brexit minister Lord Frost travelled to Brussels for talks with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic as they attempt to iron out differences over the Northern Ireland Protocol in Boris Johnson's Withdrawal Agreement.

Beforehand, Lord Frost and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis met Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney "as part of regular bilateral engagement", No.10 confirmed.

One of the options on the table is a UK-EU veterinary treaty, which would see the UK align with EU rules to avoid the introduction of extra customs checks in Northern Ireland.

David Lidington, the UK's former cabinet office minister, said he "would support alignment" with EU rules along the lines of a similar deal the bloc has with New Zealand. But he said the UK sees Brexit as "breaking free of EU rules" and is reluctant to sign up to anything that could conflict with a potential US trade deal.

MEPs on two key committees yesterday voted by an "overwhelming majority" to recommend that the European Parliament gives its consent to the EU-UK trade deal. The parliament's trade and foreign affairs committees voted in the second to last step in the parliamentary ratification process of the Trade and Co-operation Agreement.

However, a date for a final vote to ratify the deal in a plenary session of the European Parliament has not yet been set, after Brussels postponed it amid concerns about the implementation of the earlier Withdrawal Agreement.


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