EU Commissioner Mairead McGuiness has urged Irish SMEs to “think single market” instead of “cross-border” when it comes to trading with other EU nations.
Ms McGuinness made the remarks on Monday during a speech at an event for Irish SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) at the University of Limerick co-hosted by Enterprise Ireland and the Institute of International and European Affairs.
Addressing the attendees, the commissioner in charge of financial services said that thinking about trade with other EU nations as “cross-border” prevents Irish SMEs from thinking about the opportunities Europe presents.
“So today we’re talking about SMEs and the single market,” she said.
“And what I want to do is to urge you to take full advantage of the opportunity that the EU single market has to offer Irish businesses and one of the things that prevents us I think from thinking about opportunities is we think a cross border as opposed to single market.”
Ms McGuinness said that Brexit had “strengthened” Ireland’s identity as part of the EU, adding that crises strengthen Europe.
“If you look to where we are for the future, I think crises strengthen Europe – Covid has proved that, other things have as well,” she said.
“If you look at how we will prevail here in Ireland, the economy is expected to keep growing, so by 5.4% this year and 4.4% next year.
“Our exports are expected to remain good and help drive growth.”
Ms McGuinness said that “overall” the outlook remains bright for Irish businesses and the economy.
“We know the sectors involved pharmaceuticals, medical devices, ICT (information and communications technology) they have done very well since the pandemic and overall the outlook remains bright for Irish businesses and the economy,” she said.
“When I focus then on Irish SMEs, in my view, you are all in a very good place with strong fundamentals.”
However, she acknowledged that many of the sectors in the SME cluster, such as tourism and hospitality, were among the worst affected by the pandemic, and are now suffering from supply chain issues.
She said that she wanted SMEs to follow in the footsteps on multinational companies based in Ireland “who see the benefits of Ireland and the educated workforce and the business friendly environment” and also access the rest of the single market.
The Irish commissioner also called on SMEs to look at the “untapped potential” of European trade.
“But in the recovery, we should look at the huge amount of untapped potential in European trade for Irish SMEs,” she said.
“And there is a figure that sticks out in my mind because, according to the OECD, only about 6% of Irish SMEs directly trade in the single market.
“And this is much less than in other EU member states.”