Thursday 17 October 2019

Brexit a 'walk in the park' versus break-up of the UK - Ibec boss

Disruption: IBEC boss Danny McCoy warned about a potential UK break-up. Photo: Julien Behal
Disruption: IBEC boss Danny McCoy warned about a potential UK break-up. Photo: Julien Behal
Ellie Donnelly

Ellie Donnelly

The UK's exit from the EU would be a "walk in the park" compared with a break-up of the United Kingdom itself, which a Brexit crisis may spark, Ibec boss Danny McCoy has warned.

The head of the business lobby group told the Irish Independent that a possible break-up of the UK "is potentially a risk factor" that needs to be looked at here.

"Clearly, the pressures were there from the [Brexit] referendum, in that Scotland and Northern Ireland didn't want to leave the European Union," he said.

"If there was an orderly exit from the EU, and the system could hold, I'm sure the UK could hold together, but once you go into a disorderly exit... everything is possible."

The UK's withdrawal from the EU would be a "walk in the park" compared with a break-up of Britain, he added.

Whatever happens in the UK "obviously has huge consequences for us", he noted.

With just 28 days until the UK is due to leave the EU, the most likely scenario is that there is going to be a further delay, he thinks.

"I would be 99pc confident that there will be an extension on October 31," Mr McCoy said.

"But what [Brexit] has done for the UK itself will have reverberations for some time. I think there will be independent pushes in Scotland and that has knock-on consequences for Northern Ireland."

A united Ireland may never happen, but we need to prepare for the possibility, he also said.

"If a Border poll is to emerge, we as a society, not just business, need to reflect and to be ready for it. Because no small part of the Brexit conundrum is that people weren't ready for the referendum.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be an aspiration, nor for people in the North to worry that there is some avarice in the South - that (it) really wants to do a land grab - but the Good Friday Agreement gives Ireland a legitimate stake in the future of Northern Ireland to be determined by the people of Northern Ireland.

"If the people in the North were to opt for a union with the Republic, are the people in the Republic ready for it; are they going to accept it? That would be quite a significant shock to the system if people wanted to join us and we voted against it."

Northern Ireland is suffering "very badly" economically at the moment - "you see that with the Wrightbuses, with the Bombardier deals, with a whole host of manufacturing failures in the North", he said.

Ahead of Budget 2020, Mr McCoy said supporting "stability" here is now fundamental.

"Everything about our State should be to underpin the stability of our system, and that includes making sure that any shocks that come our way are absorbed. So the Government's position on the Budget is correct, to have a Budget that is available for a no-deal scenario," he said.

"Right now, it's a wait-and-see, and the Budget itself looks like a wait-and-see Budget. Sometimes in uncertainty, the best thing is not to just do something; the best thing to do is just stand there, and I think the Budget next week is going to be a stand-there-type Budget."

Meanwhile, a report from Drinks Ireland - part of Ibec - found that exports of Irish spirits were worth more than €1bn to the domestic economy last year.

The value of exports increased by 10.2pc between 2017 and 2018, with the United States by far the most popular market for the drinks.

Domestically, sales of spirits increased by 6.6pc in the 12 months to 2018. Vodka remains the country's favourite spirit, followed by whiskey.

Aoife Clarke, chair of Drinks Ireland, and director at Beam Suntory, said: "Ireland has a dynamic domestic spirits market and Irish spirits exports continue to grow, as this report demonstrates.

"Proof, if it is needed, is found in the fact that 2018 was the first year that spirits exports were worth more than €1bn to the Republic of Ireland's economy."

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