Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment, delivered the opening address at a conference on Future Opportunities in the Cross-Border Economy that was organised by Dundalk and Newry Chambers of Commerce in the Carrickdale Hotel on 8 March 2023. Minister Coveney said that the proposed Windsor Framework agreement sends out a signal to the rest of the world that Northern Ireland is in the unique economic position of being able to trade freely with both the UK and the EU. He said it would also benefit the border region more generally and have enormous spill over impacts into the border counties as well south of the border. The Minister noted that cross-border trade forms a huge part of the all-island economy, generating about €10 billion a year.
Minister Coveney also spoke about the importance of the M1 Economic Corridor for capitalising on cross-border economic potential. While at the Conference he met a delegation from the two Chambers as well the Cathaoirleach of Louth County Council and the Chair of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, along with representatives of InterTradeIreland and Newry and Mourne Enterprise Agency. A wide range of issues of importance to the region were discussed, including financial services post-Brexit, joint tourism initiatives for the region, and issues facing people living and working on either side of the border.
The Cathaoirleach of Louth CC , Conor Keelan and the chair of Newry Mourne and Down spoke of the strong and growing links between the two councils through the MOU and initiatives such as Carlingford Lough.
Oliver Mangan, chief economist with AIB outlined the prospects for growth in both the global and Irish economies in the context of the difficult backdrop posed by high inflation, rising interest rates and shortages of workers in tight labour markets. Encouragingly, activity is holding up better than expected while inflation is set to decline on the back of lower wholesale energy prices seen in recent months.
Colin McCabrey InterTrade stated that The volume and turnover of cross-border trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland has never been so high. Cross border Trade in Goods and Services has grown from €7.7bn in 2020 to €9.4bn in 2021 and the figures for 2022 for goods alone are €10.3bn. Including Services, when the figures are released, this is expected to reach €12bn. In keeping with this positivity cross-border business sentiment is equally optimistic. Cross-border trade was growing pre-Brexit but has continued to grow for a number of reasons:
- Businesses have re-mapped their supply chains as a consequence of the pandemic
- Consumer expectation is that businesses source more locally, sustainably and responsibly.
- There are greater levels of formal and informal cross-border collaboration because of supports from bodies such as InterTradeIreland but also due to necessity with skills shortages in NI and Ireland
InterTradeIreland helps businesses understand their level of readiness to Trade Cross-Border and have a range of tailored support to establish and grow business exports over time depending on the needs of our customers. Our support is flexible and tailored to business needs and unlike other agencies, our concentration is on ‘cross-border’ opportunities.
Jonathan Walsh of Fortioinsight stated “At its core the Windsor Framework has one key objective; to offer stability, certainty and security after two years of mistrust, confusion and risk.
If you are a resident in Northern Ireland, the Windsor Framework will mean that NI supermarket shelves will stock the same products as their counterparts in Great Britain. Family members living in GB can send parcels without worrying about customs requirements, whilst you will be able to purchase from Amazon and other online retailers confident that you will get what you ordered.
Finally for cross-border traders on both sides of the border on this island; it is hoped that the Windsor Framework will bring security. An agreement between the U.K. and EU – rather than unilateral legislation – will allow businesses to plan for the future with a level of confidence not seen since Brexit.
It is hoped that the Windsor Framework will keep trade (and people) flowing across this island without the need for customs posts or physical checks.”
Professor Seamus McGuinness ESRI stated that Examining trends at the level of the economy, productivity levels in the two regions were broadly equivalent in 2000. Over the period 2001 to 2020, productivity levels in Ireland have trended slightly upwards, while in Northern Ireland productivity levels have been trending downwards. By 2020, productivity per worker was approximately 40 per cent higher in Ireland compared to Northern Ireland.
Conor Patterson CE of Newry Mourne Agency welcomed the Minister and Ambassador Gary Grey from Australia noting Australia’s financial and other contributions to the Good Friday agreement. He reminded the audience of where we had come from and urged all parties in Stormont to work together.
Una McGoey President Dundalk Chamber expressed her appreciation to the Minister for his attendance yet again at our conference and emphasised the close connection between the two chambers.
Paddy Malone PRO Dundalk Chamber welcomed the Minister’s commitment to the M1 Corridor.