Assessment report: Northern Ireland Broad Economy Sales and Exports Statistics

16 December 2021
Last updated:
2 June 2023

Executive Summary

Why we carried out this assessment

Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) asked the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) to assess its Northern Ireland Broad Economy Sales and Export Statistics (BESES). In requesting this assessment, the BESES statistics team at NISRA is demonstrating its commitment to produce BESES that meet the standards required of National Statistics and the Code of Practice for Statistics. We have identified two actions for NISRA to address in order to enhance the public value and quality of BESES and to achieve National Statistics status.

Once the BESES statistics team demonstrates that these steps have been undertaken, OSR will recommend that the UK Statistics Authority designate the statistics as National Statistics.

This report was updated on 21 December to update the reference to the number of identified actions in the executive summary for the final report.

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What we found

BESES are an integral part of the suite of trade statistics produced by NISRA. While there are trade statistics prepared for specific analysis for example around EU Exit, BESES are currently the sole pre-eminent source of data on both sales by Northern Ireland (NI) businesses outside the NI domestic market and international trade outside of GB. In the run-up to EU Exit and the introduction of the NI Protocol, users and stakeholders regarded BESES as essential in measuring characteristics of NI’s trade. BESES were vital for informing policy makers and commentators in the pre-EU exit period of the potential economic impact of decisions around trade and access to markets.

The BESES statistics team received well-deserved praise for the support it provided to inform important policy decisions and papers around the EU withdrawal. Users attested to the diligence and efficiency of the BESES statistics team. The team has engaged well with a wide range of users of the statistics and collaborated effectively with other data providers. NISRA has improved the presentation of BESES with a wide range of downloadable formats now available for users, including PDF, HTML, Excel demonstration tables and reference tables[1] in ODS[2]. NISRA also publishes slide packs with every publication relating to NI-GB trade and trade more generally, which incorporate data from several sources including BESES and HMRC.

Our assessment identified that users would value more-timely BESES, so we ask NISRA to investigate what further public value could be added by producing sales and exports statistics more quickly and planning developments; accordingly, and updating the statistics landing page and improving the presentation of quality information. We expect NISRA to address the findings of this report by the end of May 2022. The UK Statistics Authority will take advice from OSR, based on NISRA’s progress against the requirements to decide whether the National Statistics designation is merited.

[1] Reference tables usually have lots of rows and columns and are aimed at users who want detailed data. There may be a wide variety of statistics broken down into different categories. They are generally supplied in a spreadsheet document.

[2] ODS files are open format and allow more than one tab and formatting tools to be used to make the content more usable, accessible and machine readable.

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