Cross-border trade has received a massive boost since the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol, according to figures published by the UK Government.
Exports to Northern Ireland from the Republic are up by 40% on the same period on 2020 — and 54% higher than the same period in 2018, the Sunday Times reported.
And southbound trade has also increased, with NI exports up 61% since 2020 and 111% since 2018.
Unionists are concerned that the NI Protocol is causing businesses in Northern Ireland to reorient supply chains away from Great Britain in favour of sourcing goods from the Republic of Ireland, thereby distancing Northern Ireland economically from the rest of the UK.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Ulster Unionist peer and former party leader Lord Empey said the situation was “intolerable”.
“Many of us have long suspected that the intent of the EU all along was to recalibrate Northern Ireland’s trade by closing off traditional supply routes with the rest of the UK and facilitating trade between NI and the EU,” he said.
“I welcome the prospect of some additional breathing space to give time for further negotiations, but the situation is intolerable and PM Boris Johnson should never have proposed a border on the Irish Sea and the DUP should never have supported this anti-unionist solution. We are all now paying the price for this blunder.”
The report also highlights the scale of the EU-mandated checks on products — especially food — coming from Great Britain into Northern Ireland’s shops.
By May 23, more than 41,000 document checks had been carried out on consignments crossing the Irish Sea to Belfast, Larne or Warrenpoint, where EU border checkpoints are located, as well as more than 36,000 ID checks and almost 3,000 physical checks on consignments.
However, there is no indication in the report of the impact of the Protocol on trade flows between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Meanwhile, UUP leader Doug Beattie is seeking an urgent meeting with NI Secretary of State Brandon Lewis about protecting the supply of medicines and medical devices to Northern Ireland’s health care sector from the impact of the controversial NI Protocol.
Mr Beattie said the issue was urgent. “Action is needed immediately because the pharmaceutical companies which supply Northern Ireland will be making critical supply decisions at the end of this month,” he said.
“It is within the government’s gift to act and they should do so with or without EU approval. We cannot wait any longer for Northern Ireland’s people to be used in a tug-of-war between the UK Government and the EU. The UK Government has a responsibility to act to protect its citizens — and that’s what should happen.”