Business groups Dublin Chamber and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday at a joint meeting in Belfast.
The two Chambers arranged the meeting of their senior representatives to discuss the implications of Brexit for both economies. Over a dozen business leaders from the two Chambers were joined at the private meeting by the Taoiseach.
The two Chambers formed a joint delegation to Washington D.C. in March of this year as a show of business commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and to affirm that the island of Ireland is open for business, organised to coincide with the St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Those in attendence today heard that cross border trade has been on an upward trajectory for decades now, with total trade standing at €7 billion as of 2017. For over half (51%) of Irish exporters, Northern Ireland is the destination for more than 50% of their exports, and Northern Ireland accounts for over 10% of total Irish exports to the UK.
Given that Northern Ireland makes up less than 3% of the UK population, this demonstrates how intertwined the two economies are.
From a Dublin perspective, almost a third of businesses (32%) report that they would be adversely impacted by the loss of current trade arrangements with Northern Ireland. Indeed, one in ten (9%) of Dublin Chamber members report that they do more business with Northern Ireland than with any other region, including the domestic market in the Republic. The value of the cross border goods trade alone has grown by over 50% since the Good Friday Agreement was signed.
The impact on Northern Ireland in particular was highlighted in a recent report from the Department for the Economy, which stated that a no-deal exit will have ‘immediate and severe’ consequences, putting 40,000 jobs at risk.
Speaking yesterday, Dublin Chamber CEO Mary Rose Burke said, "Regardless of Brexit, the business communities North and South of the border are fully committed to closer economic cooperation across the island of Ireland, and to furthering the high level of integration that already exists. The free movement of goods across the border has been part of the economic architecture of this island for generations."
Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ann McGregor added, "Businesses are rightly concerned about the future of north south relationships including all-island trade, integration of our labour markets, the all-island energy market and the damaging impact a no-deal exit could have on export sales."