Wednesday 20 February 2019

'We're not ready - we are screwed,' businesses warn

Pictured are Brexit panels members at the National Manufacturing and Supply Chain Conference, held at Citywest, Dublin. L-R: Simon McKeever, CEO Irish Exporters Association, Fergal O’Brien, IBEC, and Colin Murphy, CEO Premier Events. Photo: Paul Sherwood
Pictured are Brexit panels members at the National Manufacturing and Supply Chain Conference, held at Citywest, Dublin. L-R: Simon McKeever, CEO Irish Exporters Association, Fergal O’Brien, IBEC, and Colin Murphy, CEO Premier Events. Photo: Paul Sherwood
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Businesses are a long way from being "Brexit ready" and continued uncertainty over its outcome is set to impose yet more costs on companies, business leaders from both sides of the Border have warned.

The rejection of UK Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal agreement has raised the likelihood of a disruptive 'no-deal' Brexit, which could have serious consequences for business here.

"We now find ourselves with a 70-day window where I don't think we are prepared as a country," said Simon McKeever, chief executive of the Irish Exporters Association.

"We are, to put it bluntly, screwed," he added, speaking at a manufacturing industry conference in Dublin.

The additional burdens imposed by a hard Brexit would include extra forms that businesses need to fill in so as to cope with new customs rules, and the redrawing of shipping routes.

Food and agriculture exports from both sides would be hit as many products such as milk cross and re-cross the Border.

The imposition of World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariffs would make Northern Irish goods more expensive in the Republic, and vice versa.

Tariffs on agrifoods average 22pc under WTO rules, according to Michael Bell, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association.

"WTO rules are designed to stop the movement of agrifood products," he said.

Many speakers said British and Irish businesses needed more time to prepare, with a no-deal Brexit more likely.

"The real risk for business is the cliff edge," said Fergal O'Brien, director of policy and public affairs at business group Ibec.

Irish Independent

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