Saturday 20 January 2018

Ireland's economic model facing its biggest ever threat, says former IDA boss White

Padraic White, former head of the IDA Photo: Mac Innes
Padraic White, former head of the IDA Photo: Mac Innes
Samantha McCaughren

Samantha McCaughren

The former head of the IDA has said that Ireland's business model has never faced as serious a threat as it does now from pressures such as Brexit and the EU's "attack" on our tax regime.

Padraic White also said that Ireland could have the equivalent of a new Singapore' on its doorstep as Britain exits the EU. Singapore is currently Ireland's biggest rival for foreign direct investment (FDI) and he believes Britain will become equally attractive.

Writing in today's Sunday Independent, White said: "We face threats to our successful Irish economic model from more directions now than I can ever remember."

"To name a few: Brexit, the Trump Presidency in the USA and the hostility of the EU Commission to our success in attracting foreign investment as manifested in the attack on our corporate tax regime and our national reputation by its tax penalties on the Apple company in Ireland."

He said that the Irish negotiators on Brexit face considerable dilemmas.

"Ireland will want as free as possible access to the UK for our industries, particularly for our food - beef, dairy, food products," said White, who was managing director of IDA Ireland between 1980 and 1990, a time during which Intel chose to establish it European manufacturing facility here.

"But how far will we want to go in pushing for a UK deal close to 'free trade' with the EU market and so largely offsetting Ireland's comparative advantage as a full member of the EU with full trading access to its markets for foreign industries based here?"

He asked whether, after Brexit, the UK would be able to offer most of the advantages to FDI of access to the EU market without the costs and restrictions of membership.

He said that a Trump presidency was a concern to people in Ireland but that US companies are in Ireland to give them a base within the EU and capitalise on Irish skills.

But he added that "it is possible to visualise a scenario in the next few years where, following the visit on Friday of Prime Minister (Theresa)May to President Trump , the UK gets a bilateral trade agreement on a fast-track with the USA, has a generous free-trade agreement with the EU, is not bound by any of the State aid restrictions of EU membership, and can reduce its corporate tax below the current 19pc to any rate it decides."

"Will we then have a "new Singapore" on our doorstep in the UK, positioned offshore the main EU markets and with highly favourable bilateral trade deals with both the EU and the USA?" he said.

Sunday Indo Business

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