“Wake up Ireland – the World has Completely Changed” – Irish Exporters Association CEO
“Wake up Ireland – the world has completely changed,” was the clear, warning issued by Simon McKeever, Chief Executive of the Irish Exporters Association, on the challenges arising from Brexit.
“We as a country are looking at Brexit in too narrow a way. Our Government seems completely focused on Northern Ireland to the detriment of other aspects. We need to be thinking five to ten years down the road.”
Simon McKeever was speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Post Brexit/Trump – The Road Ahead’ at the recent National Manufacturing & Supply Chain Conference & Exhibition, which was held at the Citywest Hotel, Dublin – an event attended by about 2,500 people from all over the country.
Also participating in the same panel discussion were: David Carson, Partner at Deloitte Ireland; Barry Heavey, Head of Life Sciences, Engineering & Industrial Tech at IDA Ireland; and John McGrane, Director General of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce. The moderator was John Whelan, Export Industry Adviser to AIB, who characterised Brexit as “the biggest event to impact the country since the formation of the State. All sectors with a supply base in the UK will be affected.”
David Carson pointed out: “The UK has said what they want but we don’t yet know how the EU will react. Our approach has been to prepare for the worst case scenario.”
Barry Heavey said: “Ireland needs to look at how we can differentiate ourselves as a manufacturing base.” Some 23% of Ireland’s GDP is dependent on manufacturing. Within the overall Irish manufacturing industry, “the food sector will be the most impacted,” he added.
However, the IDA is treating Brexit as a business opportunity as Ireland may emerge as a more attractive place for foreign direct investment as a consequence of the UK’s decision to quit the European Single Market.
John McGrane said: “Ireland has always traded with the UK and it always will,” as the supply chain relationships are inextricable bound together. However, he cautioned that “a hard Brexit means a hard border,” and that the final deal reached between the UK and the EU will make it more expensive and less profitable for Irish businesses to trade.
“Britain has shot itself in our foot,” remarked John McGrane, who identified three key areas for Irish business to focus on to survive Brexit – currency, cost base and opportunities. Irish businesses will need to be more conscious of currency fluctuations and how they can adjust their cost bases accordingly. Brexit may present opportunities for joint ventures with British businesses concerned about how they will trade with the EU in the future. The major investment in infrastructure projects already announced by the British Government will present significant opportunities for Irish business.