There’s a mixed picture of trade in and out of both parts of Ireland, some of them temporary and perverse
The good news? Via Sky News
A lot of freight, up by 4.3% in February, is now sent from British ports to Northern Ireland on ferries and then driven down into Ireland.
More goods are now moving between Britain and Belfast because freight can now be sent from Britain to Ireland through Northern Ireland without complex customs procedures.
Ferry data analysed by Sky News shows that freight volumes between Liverpool and Belfast and Cairnryan and Belfast have nearly risen back to their pre-pandemic levels since the start of the year.
However, freight movement between Holyhead and Dublin has halved over the same period. Freight volume has collapsed between Fishguard in Wales and Rosslare in Ireland.
The industry fears the viability of the Belfast route is likely to be short lived as freight capacity is nearing its limit.
John Martin, policy manager in Northern Ireland for the Road Haulage Association said: “Once the COVID restrictions are lifted and the retail and hospitality sectors open up in Northern Ireland, there will be an increase in demand for products coming from GB into Northern Ireland.
“There will be insufficient capacity on the ferry servicing Northern Ireland because of the increase in the demand from the truck operators in Ireland.”
Businesses have had a difficult start to the year and are concerned about what is yet to come.
Not so good news ..
Freight volumes from Welsh ports into Ireland fell by 65% in February compared to same month last year, according to ferry operator Stena Line.
Politics behind the change in trade routes
By David Blevins, Senior Ireland Correspondent
There is a fairly simple explanation for the changing trade flow – the EU is implementing the Withdrawal Agreement but the UK is not implementing the Northern Ireland part of it.
The UK government has extended the grace period before more stringent checks are required on goods crossing the Irish Sea to Northern Ireland but it cannot keep kicking that can.
So you can see why the EU is so keen on implementing the protocol.
Where has the rest of trade moved to?
There has been a 208% increase in the volume of freight transported by ferries from France directly to Ireland in February compared to the same month last year, latest data from the ferry operator Stena Line shows
Neal Richmond, the Fine Gael TD often used by the Irish government as a spokesman abroad wrote in the New European last month that Ireland’s use of the British land bridge had markedly declined.
Where previously there was not sufficient capacity to ship goods directly from Ireland, ferry providers have reacted to the increased demand and there has been a 138% increase in freight sailings per week from Ireland to the mainland when compared to January 2020. Rosslare, Ireland’s closest port to the mainland, has seen a 446% increase in freight volumes on their direct shipping routes compared to last year. Rosslare now offers 30 direct sailings per week to the continent, compared to 10 per week in 2020.
Direct routes to France in particular have proved very popular for exporters, with 36 sailings per week from Ireland to Northern France, up from 12 one year ago. When the France introduced the requirement for hauliers to show negative Covid-19 antigen tests upon entry, the government reacted swiftly, providing facilities to test 1,000-1,500 hauliers a week prior to travel.
As well as diversifying their shipping routes, Irish companies were also urged to diversify their exports to non-British markets where possible prior to Brexit. As a result, our UK exports decreased from 16% of total exports in 2015 to 14% in 2019. Meanwhile, Irish exports to the eurozone grew by 15% in 2019 and those to North America similarly increased by 16%.
One important local gripe is reported by BBC NI News’ Claire Graham
The failure to bring in a promised cash-back scheme for companies hit by EU tariffs is “deeply disappointing”, a leading business body has said.
The plan to reimburse Northern Ireland firms was outlined in May 2020 .
Three months into the new trading arrangements, the scheme still has not been introduced.
Some businesses have been forced to decide whether it is viable to continue selling to customers in the Republic of Ireland.
The cash-back scheme affects those trading goods between GB and NI at risk of being used in the Republic of Ireland or the EU internal market.
The Northern Ireland Protocol states the government would establish a reimbursement scheme for goods which attract an EU tariff but “can subsequently be shown to have remained in the UK customs territory”.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London