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Information Note on Revision to Trade with Northern Ireland July 2021

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Revisions Process

Trade in goods data is revised on a continuous, rolling basis.  A large component of the monthly revisions comes from incorporation of late data received from traders which replace estimates for previous non-response. Revisions also arise where data received from a trader is found to be incorrect.

All revisions are incorporated into the latest CSO release and PX-Stat tables and submitted to Eurostat each month. Due to the continuous nature of revisions, the changes are not normally highlighted.

Changes to trade data collection following Brexit

From 1st January 2021, all trade in goods with Great Britain (excluding Northern Ireland) must be reported to Revenue’s Customs declaration systems. Prior to this, data on trade with Great Britain were collected via a combination of the Intrastat survey and VAT returns.

Under the Revised Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland effectively remains within the EU Single Market for the movement of goods, and trade statistics with Northern Ireland continue to be compiled from Intrastat survey data and VAT returns. As part of the new rules, separately identifiable VAT numbers for Northern Irish entities were introduced from January 2021.

This introduction of Northern Irish VAT numbers has allowed traders to identify and report trade with Northern Ireland more accurately. Previously it was not always possible to distinguish whether a UK VAT number related to a trader in Great Britain or Northern Ireland.

Identification of revisions

Where a large increase in trade with Northern Ireland was recorded since the start of 2021 the data have been queried with traders. In many cases, the increases are explained by changes to supply chains.  However, in some cases, traders reported that they had previously incorrectly reported their trading partner as Great Britain, when in fact it should have been Northern Ireland. Where errors in historical data have been identified, the data have been revised by the CSO, and incorporated on a rolling basis.

Due to the large number of companies involved in trade with Northern Ireland not all the data could be queried. The CSO has therefore used data from the larger traders in combination with the newly available Northern Ireland specific VAT data to profile and apply revisions to trade with Northern Ireland for smaller traders.

All revisions described here were applied for an historical period of two years (2019-2020) to allow more accurate comparisons of Ireland’s trade with Northern Ireland before and after Brexit.

Size of revisions to trade with Northern Ireland

Since the beginning of this year, exports to Northern Ireland have been revised upwards by a cumulative total of approximately €280 million for 2020 while imports have been revised upwards by €760 million for 2020.

The sectors with the largest revisions were exports of Food and live animals to Northern Ireland, where exports were revised upwards by €204 million in 2020, and imports of Chemicals and related products from Northern Ireland, which were revised upwards by €244 million for the same period.

It should be noted that trade in goods with Great Britain has decreased by similar amounts as these improvements to regional allocation have been implemented. Therefore, trade with the UK as a whole is largely unchanged by these revisions.

Table 1 gives details of the changes to 2020 data. The data for 2019 were revised by similar amounts across the same sectors. 

Table 1 Revisions to trade in goods with Northern Ireland since January 2021
Product detail January 2021 release July 2021 release Revised - original
 2020 - original 2020 - revised Difference
Food and live animals677881204
Beverages and tobacco718110
Crude materials, inedible, except fuels779619
Mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials55561
Animal and vegetable oils, fats and waxes11110
Chemicals and related products3843895
Manufactured goods classified chiefly by material31734225
Machinery and transport equipment14817224
Miscellaneous manufactured articles2202266
Commodities and transactions not classified elsewhere135120-15
Food and live animals597723126
Beverages and tobacco1891989
Crude materials, inedible, except fuels718514
Mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials13816224
Animal and vegetable oils, fats and waxes24306
Chemicals and related products67311244
Manufactured goods classified chiefly by material31238775
Machinery and transport equipment136260124
Miscellaneous manufactured articles8014262
Commodities and transactions not classified elsewhere9817476
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