Second-hand car registrations drop by two-thirds as Brexit ‘fundamentally changes’ market

Revenue chairman Niall Cody tells PAC the number of second-hand car registrations may only reach 40,000 this year

Brexit has “fundamentally changed” the used car market in Ireland with the number of registrations plummeting since the UK left the EU, the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has heard.

Revenue chairman Niall Cody told TDs the number of second-hand car registrations may only reach 40,000 this year, down from about 120,000 per year before Brexit as most used cars came from the UK.

He outlined the large drop in used car registrations after Fianna Fáil TD James O’Connor asked if he was concerned about the ability of car dealerships to maintain their businesses amid a “car crisis” that includes a manufacturing shortage of new vehicles and the high cost of importing cars from Britain.

Mr Cody said Brexit had “fundamentally changed” the Irish second hand car market.


He said that in 2019 there were 115,000 second hand car registrations, most from the UK. By 2021 – after the end of a transition period in which Britain remained in the Customs Union and Single Market – there were 65,000.

As of two weeks ago just 34,000 used cars were registered in Ireland this year, he added.

He suggested it might reach 40,000 by the end of 2022 but that is a drop from 120,000 pre-Brexit.

“That’s the consequence of the UK leaving the single market,” he said.

He said that before Brexit there had been “nearly a single market within a single market” between Ireland and Britain and the impact has been fundamental on post, customs and ecommerce.

Mr Cody referred to an Ibec report on the divergence of the economies of the UK and Ireland and said: “As regulatory changes happen I think that it’s going to become more so.”

Mr Cody said he hoped the ongoing Brexit negotiations will lead to “a greater convergence than divergence”.

“I know I’m not supposed to talk about policy issues but these are policy issues that aren’t fixable in Ireland,” he said.

Leo Varadkar on Thursday said he would seek a meeting over the Christmas-New Year period with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to discuss Northern Ireland.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin on Thursday, the Tánaiste, who will become Taoiseach in December, said he hoped the meeting could be arranged “either before the end of December or in the New Year” and that he also intends to travel to Northern Ireland as Taoiseach to meet party leaders.

He was speaking alongside Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys at the launch of a new €33 million fund to upgrade hundreds of community centres nationwide.

He said he wanted to meet political leaders in the North, “first of all to come to an agreement in relation to the protocol so that we can avoid a hard border but reassure unionists about their position in the United Kingdom. But also particularly as well to get the assembly and executive up and running again.”

He said it was paramount to have a government in Northern Ireland. “There’s nobody who can legitimately say they can speak for Northern Ireland, or the people of Northern Ireland. And that’s really missing. That would have been helpful in the past when we were trying to negotiate a solution to Brexit, it would be very helpful now.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times