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Britain is not Ireland's most lucrative EU trading partner - Belgium is

Exports to Britain in 2015 accounted for €13.7 billion but the Belgian market was worth €14.5 billion.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Belgium Embassy
Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Belgium Embassy
Image: Rollingnews.ie

BRITAIN IS USUALLY seen as Ireland’s main EU ally and largest trading partner, but Belgium is a bigger export market, according to CSO statistics obtained by TheJournal.ie.

The statistics show that while Ireland exported €13.7 billion worth of goods to Britain in 2015, exports to Belgium topped €14.5 billion.

A proportion of this is shipped on from Belgian ports to other markets.

Exports to Britain still account for much more bulk – 36% of the total volume of exports were across the Irish Sea.

The United States, meanwhile, remain our most lucrative export market by a country mile, accounting for €26 billion of Irish exports last year.


Israel has jumped from being our 14th biggest export market to 11th, with electrical machinery and appliances the single biggest sector.

Republic of Ireland v Belgium - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade de Bordeaux King Philippe of Belgium waits for the Euro 2016 match between Belgium and Ireland in Bordeaux in June Source: Petr David Josek/PA

Bernie Ryan of the Central Statistics Office told TheJournal.ie that medical and pharmaceutical products account for most of the exports to Belgium.

“Basically we export a lot of pharmaceutical offices whose head office are in Brussels, which is their hub,” she said.

It’s a slight misnomer in a way, because some of it might be then sent on to other countries.

“You’d be talking very high value and low quantities, because pharmaceuticals are low in bulk.

Whereas with England it could be live animals, maybe lower-value but higher tonnage goods.

“It’s a hard one – we do export a lot to Britain, but a lot of that is food and live animals.

“Our exports to Britain are still very important.”

Pfizer Pfizer is one of Ireland's biggest pharmaceutical firms Source: Rollingnews.ie

Ireland exported €6.8 billion worth of medical and pharmaceutical products to Belgium in 2015, and €2.42 billion in the first four months of this year.

Meat production

We also exported just over €6 billion worth of organic chemicals to Belgium last year.

Exports to the United Kingdom – Britain and Northern Ireland combined – remain more valuable than those to Belgium.

The biggest sector in exports to Britain was ‘meat and meat production’, accounting for €1.7 billion last year, and €500 million from January to April.

The latest statistics show that Ireland exported €4.9 billion worth of goods to Belgium in the first four months of this year, compared to €4.064 billion worth to Britain.

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