Business Brexit

Thursday 14 December 2017

Brexit: The Irish jobs that have already been lost and how wages could slump by 10pc

'Whose pockets could be hardest hit by Britain's move to leave the EU - and what can you do to shield your finances from Brexit?'
'Whose pockets could be hardest hit by Britain's move to leave the EU - and what can you do to shield your finances from Brexit?'

Anne Marie Walsh

Brexit is set to send wages plummeting by up to 10pc, an economist with a leading think-tank warns.

But Edgar Morgenroth, of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), predicted that workers in Dublin would be cushioned from the ravages of the UK's decision to leave the EU, which took place on this day last year.

It has also been revealed that more than 200 jobs have been lost in the food industry as the impending exit has already begun to take its toll.

Exports of goods and services to the UK are worth €39bn and make up 17pc of Irish exports, although this is well below levels in the early 1970s when the UK accounted for more than 50pc of our exports.

Edgar Morgenroth of the ESRI
Edgar Morgenroth of the ESRI

Prof Morgenroth has conducted a study that predicts pay will fall by an average 2.2pc if there is a 'soft' fallout with a high-tech unseen Border.

Average wages will fall by 3.6pc if it is a hard border and there are tough tariffs on exports. But he forecast workers in the most vulnerable sectors, including agri-food's beef and dairy industries, may face deeper wage cuts of between 5pc and 10pc.

"Wages will drop by 3.6pc across the economy if we have a hard Brexit, with the imposition of World Trade Organisation tariffs," he said.

"That's the average effect. Nobody knows how quickly this will come true. It could come in with a bang or gradually.

"The hit that is going to be taken is going to have a much bigger proportional impact on those regions that are already weaker like Cavan and Monaghan compared with Dublin, and a hard Brexit with tariffs will heighten regional difference."

He said Brexit can generate a big panic where people think they will all lose their jobs, but even in agri-food that won't apply to everyone. However, he said the average worker should still be worried about Brexit.

"If you think about the last crash, if you were sitting in Facebook or Google, or LinkedIn, wages were not cut but taxes went up. So workers are not insulated from all of this.

"If a sector gets hit and there is less money around the economy, less taxes will be collected and fiscal constraints are tighter and ultimately it effects everyone."

In addition, the estimated average wage reduction is not trivial. "If you took 3.6pc from your salary, you'd notice it," he said.

Union officials are more convinced that workers will suffer job rather than wage cuts if the economic climate worsens.

Read more: We survived volcanic ash and Sars, but this is a real threat, say hoteliers

Siptu sector organiser in agriculture, ingredients, food and drink, Michael Browne, said Brexit would be a production rather than a cost-base issue, which is a scenario employers usually respond to with job cuts.

"Job cuts are probably more likely," said Siptu's manufacturing division organiser Gerry McCormack. "If you don't have the market, you reduce the size of your production. Cutting wages is not going to solve the problem."

Although separation talks between London and the EU Commission in Brussels have just begun, he estimates that more than 200 jobs have already been lost.

Irish Independent

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