Tuesday 17 September 2019

Traders do little to prepare for Brexit - and are risking 'last-minute panic'

Frontier: A disused customs hut in Pettigo, on the border between Donegal and Fermanagh. Photo: Mary Turner/Bloomberg
Frontier: A disused customs hut in Pettigo, on the border between Donegal and Fermanagh. Photo: Mary Turner/Bloomberg

Shawn Pogatchnik

Many businesses with exposure to cross-Border trade see Brexit as their biggest looming problem - yet barely one in 10 has taken any measures to get ready, according to a new cross-Border survey of traders' attitudes and actions.

The quarterly InterTradeIreland Business Monitor found that only 11pc of 760 businesses surveyed had made any preparations for the logistical hurdles and competitiveness challenges posed by a hard Brexit.

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The finding comes on the heels of a nationwide Kantar/'Sunday Independent' consumer sentiment poll that measured how the Irish public is bracing for Brexit.

It found that only 21pc think the economy will grow over the next 12 months, down nine points from a year ago, while the number expecting the economy to get worse has nearly doubled to 32pc. By contrast, the Central Bank's most recent forecast this month still sees the Irish economy eking out 2020 growth in a hard-Brexit scenario.

Kantar associate director Paul Moran said Brexit worries overshadowed the poll results, even though most interviews occurred before Boris Johnson's July 24 selection as British prime minister.

"One in four feels their financial status has reversed, at a time of peak economic activity, and represents a three-year high. We know booms don't last forever, and that this boom, arguably at its apex, still isn't resonating for many. This is a worry," he said.

Aidan Gough of InterTrade Ireland
Aidan Gough of InterTrade Ireland

The InterTradeIreland telephone poll of business owners across Ireland, North and south, from June 17 to July 10 identified Brexit as the top concern for 45pc - but few had translated their concerns into any discernible action.

"The disparity between businesses recognising Brexit as the key issue facing them and the number actually preparing for it remains a worry," said Aidan Gough, director of strategy and policy at Inter- TradeIreland.

Mr Gough said traders should seek to tap the InterTradeIreland grant facility, which offers up to £4,500 or €5,000 to help fund expert advice on Brexit readiness.

"Don't leave it until the last minute. There are lots of small steps that businesses can begin to take now to prepare, whatever the outcome. It doesn't have to be onerous. Planning is never wasted and is much preferable to panic if left undone," he said.

When the survey isolated firms involved in cross-Border trade, the results improved slightly. It found that 18pc had taken steps to prepare for Brexit - still surprisingly low given that the UK was originally slated to leave the EU more than four months ago.

Some 14pc had looked into post-Brexit customs rules, 12pc at how tariffs might affect them, and 7pc at how their supply chain might be snarled by Brexit.

InterTradeIreland, based in Newry, was established in 1998 under terms of the Good Friday peace accord to promote all-island commerce.

Irish Independent

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