Coca-cola “mapping out” potential impact of Brexit on its business
COCA-Cola HBC, one of Northern Ireland’s most well-established producers in the food and drink sector, has said it’s “mapping out” the potential impact of Brexit on its business.
The company, which has a history in Northern Ireland going back to 1939, employs around 522 people at its £150m facility in Lisburn.
Investment in the Knockmore Hill site, which opened in 2010, followed the closure of two Coca-Cola HBC sites in the Republic in the 2000s.
The 52-acre Lisburn site is now responsible for producing, bottling and distributing 95pc of Coca-Cola products sold throughout Ireland, from Deep RiverRock to Vegified and Coke Zero.
As a business which crosses the border at regular intervals, it would potentially be hit by delays and higher costs if the UK ultimately leaves the Single Market and Customs Union as a result of Brexit.
The company’s activities cross the border at the outset as the Lisburn plant receives the concentrate which makes up Coca-Cola from Ballina in Co Mayo. It is delivered to Knockmore Hill by road.
And according to lobby returns released by the Irish government and revealed in the Sunday Times, representatives have met government officials in the Republic over Brexit.
It’s understood the Coca-Cola delegation was led by the company’s managing director in Ireland and Northern Ireland, Matthieu Seguin.
A spokeswoman for Coca-Cola HBC said: “Like many companies, we are mapping the potential impact of Brexit on our business. As part of this work, we are having discussions with various stakeholders both north and south of the border.” Coca-Cola HBC has been among several US firms to meet ministers such as junior trade minister Darragh O’Brien to discuss their concerns.
BNY Mellon and BlackRock also lobbied Irish government officials.
The website lobby.ie reveals that Coca-Cola HBC Ireland held meetings with officials “to discuss the potential challenges that a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland would present to a business operating on a 32 county basis”.
And the intended result was to “generate a greater understanding of the challenges that Brexit may present to Coca-Cola HBC Ireland and Northern Ireland”.
Seamus Leheny, policy and membership manager at the Freight Transport Association (FTA) in Northern Ireland, said: “The supply chain for north and south is interconnected. Therefore FTA is working with the government to ensure post-Brexit that the movement of goods and services remains free-flowing.”
Coca-Cola is the latest all-Ireland drinks company to address Brexit. Last month Guinness owner Diageo confirmed a Bloomberg report that it believed a hard border could cause delays of up to an hour.
Such delays would add an extra €100 to each lorry-load of Guinness.
The stout is made in St James’s Gate before it is transported to Belfast for canning, and sent back to Dublin for distribution.
Diageo also produces and bottles its Baileys Irish Cream in Northern Ireland from milk sourced from farmers on both sides of the border.
Last week customs authorities in the Republic indicated that up to 8pc of freight would be subject to checks after the UK leaves the EU. Revenue commissioner Liam Irwin told senators and TDs at the Oirechtas finance committee in the Dail that EU law required some inspections, even if efforts were made to minimise cross-border customs controls. He said checks could be made at “trade facilitation posts” up to 15 kilometres from the border.