Dear Siobhan 

Confirmation of National Statistics designation for Northern Ireland Broad Economy Sales and Export Statistics (BESES) 

We have reviewed the actions that your team has taken to address the requirements in Assessment Report number 365: Northern Ireland Broad Economy Sales and Export Statistics (BESES). I would like to thank you and your team for your commitment to improving these statistics. 

On behalf of the Board of the UK Statistics Authority, I am pleased to confirm the designation of National Statistics for Northern Ireland (NI) BESES produced by Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency. The statistics are a valuable and trusted source of data on both sales and purchases by NI businesses outside the NI domestic market and international trade outside of Great Britain. 

We were particularly impressed with your development of a user-friendly dashboard, providing NI-specific monthly international trade in products data. The introduction of a dedicated link for Trade statistics also helps users navigate more easily to the BESES and other sources of official trade statistics. We have included more detail around our judgement in the annex to this letter. 

I am copying this letter to Brian Green, Director of Sources at NISRA. 

Yours sincerely   

 Ed Humpherson 

Director General for Regulation 

Annex: Summary of actions taken by NISRA in response to Assessment Report 365: Northern Ireland Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics   

Requirement one: NISRA needs to establish with users what further public value could be added by producing sales and exports statistics more quickly, and to:

a) develop plans to meet those needs, and

b) be transparent about where the needs cannot be met.  

Actions taken by NISRA to meet the requirement

a) NISRA has:   

  • hosted a user group meeting with more than 40 external users in January 2022 and followed up with a user consultation in February 2022 (which received 15 responses).   
  • developed and published a user friendly interactive dashboard to package the monthly Northern Ireland trade-in-goods data released by Eurostat. This source provides Northern Ireland-specific international trade in products data on a monthly basis since January 2021.   
  • planned to bring forward its publication of imports statistics to early April (previously released in May/June each year). This will allow the release of imports and exports goods and services data in a single publication to support balance of trade analysis.   
  • increased the uptake of electronic data collection among businesses and aim to increase further potentially providing the opportunity to trim the field work period for the data collection.   
  • added 95 new variables to the survey questionnaire on imports, which should enable an estimated 50 additional import tables being published in the future.  


  • Users understood the strengths and limitations of BESES, and feedback from the user consultation was positive about the approach that NISRA is taking.    
  • NISRA has published the results of both the user group meeting and consultation.

OSR’s evaluation of evidence   

More-timely publication of imports data and adoption on electronic data collection methods help address the demand from users for more timely international trade-by-product statistics. The introduction of new variables to the imports form is in direct response to users demand for more information and will mean users have equivalent information for imports as they do for exports.   

The newly developed interactive dashboard provides monthly international trade data on products which includes the crucial cross-border Ireland–Northern Ireland trade.    

NISRA engages well with users of these statistics and is transparent in publishing user group meeting feedback and consultation results.    

Requirement two:  To aid use and re-use of BESES data, NISRA should:

a) update the statistics landing page with clear information to users on how to navigate BESES and an explanation of the different formats available

b) improve the presentation of quality information.

Actions taken by NISRA to meet the requirement

NISRA has:

  • updated the statistics landing page on its website to include a dedicated link for Trade statistics. This links users to the BESES web landing page and to other sources of official trade statistics.
  • updated the BESES landing page to make it explicit that publications and tables are available in various formats including HTML, PDF, Microsoft Excel, and Open Document Spreadsheets.
  • published a one page quick reference guide on the BESES web landing page, which includes quick links to current publications and supporting metadata/quality information.

OSR’s evaluation of evidence   

The navigation between NISRA’s trade statistics information and the BESES web landing page as well as to other data and resources is much simpler and more straight-forward.

The presentation of quality information now gives users an appreciation of the strengths and limitations of the statistics, and NISRA’s capacity to create bespoke analyses.