Covid slams brakes on cross-border trading - InterTradeIreland monitor

The border crossing area on the main road into Muff village in Co Donegal from Derry. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin.
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE impact of Covid-19 has slammed the brakes on cross-border trading in Ireland, a business barometer has revealed.

InterTradeIreland’s business monitor covering the April-June quarter shows that, whereas previously 42 per cent of firms across the island said they were in growth mode, this has now plunged to 15 per cent.

And more than half (53 per cent) of all businesses in Ireland are now in decline - up from just 7 per cent in the previous quarter as the dizzying speed of contraction takes its toll.

InterTradeIreland director Aidan Gough said: “Before Covid-19 struck, the growth in cross-border trade was helping to significantly boost productivity and profitability in both jurisdictions.

“Now they are focusing on surviving and directing resources to adapting to the new landscape caused by Covid-19.

“And it's also important not to lose sight of the fact that Brexit is another once in a generation issue that is looming on the horizon.

“If there's anything Covid-19 has shown us, it’s the importance of assessing risk and responding properly. We know businesses have remarkable resilience, but it’s important not to be complacent around Brexit.”

In terms of employment, 23 per cent of businesses say their staff levels have decreased - the worst since late 2009, when the island was gripped by recession.

As Covid-19 touches every aspect of economic life, it has hastened the adaption of certain technologies and practices, though there is a risk that smaller businesses could be left behind.

The business monitor illustrates is a digital divide between larger firms and micro SMEs has been exposed (70 per cent of firms with less than 10 staff say that employees have no access to emails or company files and documents, while for larger firms this drops to 37 per cent).

As regards remote working, Northern Ireland is further behind the Republic, with 18 per cent of staff working from home compared to 41 per cent of employees across the border.

InterTradeIreland's findings also highlight the resilience of firms across the island, with 73 per cent of respondents reporting they are planning to re-hire staff.

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