Source: New summary of Northern Ireland’s position

The Bruegel organisation is a Brussels-based economic think tank with a rather useful blog which summarises its output of lengthy analysis reports. Its latest report issued just before Christmas – “The impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland: A first look” – is relatively brief and relies to some extent on earlier reports from the ESRI and the House of Lords, but it makes a useful summary and reminder of just how much is at stake. Bruegel’s focus is on differential impact on the various UK regions and the particularly exposed position of Northern Ireland. For the UK as a whole, trade is split fairly evenly between the EU and the rest of the world. Northern Ireland. however, “trades mostly with the EU, and in particular with the Republic of Ireland. Two thirds of exports from the EU and about half of imports to the EU are traded with the Republic of Ireland. The economic integration with the Republic of Ireland has risen substantially since the Good Friday Agreement. Since then, there has been a significant increase in cross-border trade, which was mainly driven by the increase in exports from Northern Ireland to the Republic.”

Their conclusion – “Northern Ireland is more exposed to the impact of any trade barriers that might emerge as a consequence of Brexit”  – is a bit limp because it does not take any account of the constituents of cross-border trade. More than half is made up of agri-food products, which attract the highest rates of WTO tariff. That will potentially prove to be the real differential between the north and other UK regions.