Brexit – an opportunity to be seized
David Carson, Partner and Brexit Lead, outlines how planning for Brexit can identify opportunities for Irish businesses.
The opportunities afforded by Brexit are often overlooked due to the prevailing view that Brexit poses unprecedented challenges to Irish businesses. It is true to say that Brexit is complicated and brings uncertainty to the business environment. It creates significant challenges across a range of sectors. However, Brexit can bring opportunities.
To prepare for Brexit and take advantage of any opportunities that it may bring, there are a few guiding principles:
- Businesses should assess the potential impacts of Brexit on their business and the sector in which they operate. Brexit extends far beyond the potential imposition of customs and tariffs, and it is important to assess all factors. Contingency plans need to be prepared under various scenarios; and
- Brexit changes the EU/UK trading relationship permanently and future strategy must be assessed in this context. This is particularly relevant for businesses that rely on the UK market for some or all of their supply chain.
Setting aside the uncertainty that comes with Brexit, the opportunities for businesses in Ireland are becoming clearer. Ireland is a fully committed member of the EU and the Eurozone, and businesses that operate here retain all the benefits that come with our membership of both. Ireland remains an attractive place to do business and the IDA, in particular, has been very active in promoting Ireland with its flexible and innovative workforce.
Our membership of the EU and our English-speaking workforce will continue to be important factors in attracting foreign direct investment post-Brexit. Indeed, we have already seen a number of financial services companies announce jobs in Ireland as a direct result of Brexit. Other sectors such as IT, life sciences and higher education are examples of sectors that could also gain from Brexit.
As a result of Brexit, businesses must carry out strategic reviews if they are to become more competitive. Historically, Irish businesses have tended to look to the UK in the first instance and in many cases had no plans to look beyond. There have been valid reasons for this, including culture and language. Irish businesses will continue to trade with the UK and may find the option of establishing a presence in the UK attractive. This can be done by establishing a base in the UK, acquiring an established business or entering into a strategic alliance or joint venture with a UK company.
Brexit has challenged – and will continue to challenge – traditional thinking and will become a catalyst in opening up new markets. In this context, business owners should remember that for every Irish company concerned about Brexit’s impact on future trading with the UK, there must be a number of UK companies concerned with the impact on future trading with the EU. This presents opportunities for Irish business. Indeed, Irish businesses are in a unique position due to Ireland’s political alignment with the EU and economic alignment with – and proximity to – the UK, to maintain and enhance trading relationships with both jurisdictions.
As an EU member, Ireland will benefit from any future trade deals negotiated by the EU. President Junker, in his recent address to the Joint Houses of the Oireachtas, said: “The reality is that there is no arrangement outside the European Union which is as good as membership” and Irish businesses must capitalise on the benefits that EU membership brings.
Irish businesses have an opportunity to become amongst the most competitive in Europe. Technology, resilience and innovation are core traits that will enable Irish businesses to grow. With 29 March 2019 looming, it is important for Irish businesses to seize the moment.