The exit from the EU, with the data on the table, is being an unambiguous economic disaster for the United Kingdom, which the Government figures in a 4% drop in GDP in the medium term. But the text of the agreement indicated from the outset that a particular sector of the British economy could benefit greatly from it. And the latest data, almost a year after Brexit came true, confirm expectations: Northern Ireland’s exports have exploded. “This is the best time of our lives,” said Stephen Kelly, president of the Manufacturing NI industrial entrepreneurs association.
According to data published last Wednesday by the United Kingdom, the province’s exports to the Republic of Ireland in the first three quarters of the year have soared 60%, to 2,800 million euros. The opposite way, trade from Ireland to Northern Ireland, has also increased considerably: by 48%, to 2.57 billion euros. And a similar data is given for sales to Great Britain: a rise of 36%.
The key to these figures is the exceptional situation of the British province, within the United Kingdom and, at the same time, of the European Common Market. The result is that the products manufactured there do not have any kind of customs control when exporting to the EU, because they follow European regulations; nor to cross the Irish Sea to Great Britain, because for the British Government they are national production.
These advantages are attracting industries that want to sell on both sides. This Friday, Ardagh Metal Packaging announced that it would install a 200 million plant to manufacture cans of Coca-Cola, to supply bottlers in the United Kingdom and the EU.
The big question now is what will be the effect of the tensions between the EU and the Government of Boris Johnson, which continues to threaten to break the Brexit agreement if major changes are not made to the part that regulates the Northern Irish situation, invoking the so-called ” Article 16 “. His concern is the only trade that has not moved a millimeter: sales from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, which do have to pass controls, and which have stagnated while the rest of the trade with the province soared.
Still no progress
This Friday, the Brexit Minister, David Frost, and the Vice President of the European Commission Maro ?? ?? efcovic met again, without much progress. The EU continues to offer to cut the paperwork that British companies have to go through to trade with Northern Ireland by up to 80%, while London calls for “essentially, freedom of trade” between the two shores.
For the moment, Northern Irish exporters are taking advantage of the situation. Manufacturing NI asks for “improvements” to the treaty on the province, but not its unilateral cancellation, which would bring what scares them the most: uncertainty. They ask their politicians for more clarity, a stable framework and, above all, continue to take advantage of this unique position as a bridge between the UK and the EU. The problem is that Northern Ireland has been anything but stable in the last century. And on the horizon are the May 2022 elections and the possibility that Sinn Féin, the party that advocates the unification of the island, will become the main party of the two parts of Ireland for the first time in history.