Sunday 23 July 2017

Government not dealing with Brexit threat to firms - SFA

Brexit: serious threat for small businesses according to Mr Noonan. Photo: Reuters
Brexit: serious threat for small businesses according to Mr Noonan. Photo: Reuters

Sean Duffy

The Government needs to increase its focus on the implications of Brexit for Irish business, according to the chairman of the Small Firms Association (SFA), AJ Noonan.

"Serious threats abound for small businesses," Mr Noonan said at the annual SFA lunch in Dublin yesterday.

"We have seen a stark shift in the outlook of these firms over the past six months. The conversation to date has largely been about the political fallout from Brexit," he said.

"We must turn the Brexit conversation away from politics to business. Our businesses, our jobs, our futures.

"Forty-one per cent of our members report that Brexit has already had a negative impact on their business, rising to 68pc expecting a negative impact in the next six months," Mr Noonan said.

He also called on the Government to provide additional support to the sector through the provision of specialised credit schemes.

"We need immediate Government intervention to help sustainable businesses maintain their businesses and the jobs they employ in every part of the country to survive this crisis, with direct stabilisation funding and with new low interest and specialised export credit insurance and trade finance," he said.

"We need Government to become obsessive about our cost competitiveness and our tax competitiveness vis-a-vis the UK."

Mr Noonan also criticised trade unions for what he claimed were "extraordinary" demands at a vulnerable moment for the economy.

"Managing wage expectations has emerged as the most important issue facing small businesses. In an economy that is now deflationary, in which businesses are finding it impossible to get price increases, this is extraordinary, and is being fuelled by unrealistic demands in the trade union movement, both public and private sector".

Mr Noonan said that Ireland's taxation system required "an urgent overhaul", claiming that high taxes on the self-employed and owner-managers was acting as a disincentive to companies seeking to relocate as a result of Brexit.

"Of course Brexit is going to challenge us, but it is our response to those challenges that will define us in the years ahead.

"If we fail to adapt we will become extinct. It is vital the we are strategic and focus on those factors that are in our control."

Mr Noonan confirmed he would be stepping down as chairman of the SFA after four years in the post.

Irish Independent

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