Business Irish

Thursday 24 May 2018

State hasn't tapped outside advice over UK-EU talks

Enda Kenny meeting with Angela Merkel in Berlin this week
Enda Kenny meeting with Angela Merkel in Berlin this week

Gretchen Friemann

THE Government has not appointed any external consultants or advisers on Brexit, the Irish Independent has learned.

The UK and Scottish Government have hired teams of external experts to support their Brexit negotiators, but the Government here has so far given a cold shoulder to consultancy firms hoping to land a role co-ordinating the Irish response.

The Irish Independent understands top-tier companies have offered their services to the Department of the Taoiseach, but came away empty-handed.

In a statement to this newspaper, a spokesperson from the department, which is spearheading the Brexit negotiations on behalf of the Government, said "resources requirements" in relation to Brexit are "under continuing review".

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has faced a barrage of criticism for failing to prepare adequately for Brexit - charges he has emphatically rejected.

So far the State team has relied on the civil service in its preparations for arguably one of the greatest political and economic challenges in the State's history.

But some in the business community question whether the civil service possesses the necessary skill-set to formulate a response to the changes.

Brendan Foster, a partner at consultancy firm, Grant Thornton, and council member at Dublin Chamber of Commerce, said external advisors were "an absolute necessity" to help map out post-Brexit measures.

"We can't prepare enough for this huge challenge," he said. "We are only just beginning to understand the issues."

The UK government recently threw open the door to the private sector, inviting firms to pitch for a £1.5m (€1.75m) consultancy contract to help steer a path out of the EU, cementing expectations this will become a fertile patch for financial services companies.

However, Shaun Murphy, managing partner at KPMG Ireland, insisted the demands facing the two countries were very different.

He pointed out that Ireland will benefit from the EU's sprawling bureaucratic infrastructure, whereas the UK must now establish these areas of expertise - virtually from scratch.

The Government here already has access to the business community's views, he said, but argued the private sector could play a "useful role" advising on the many Brexit issues.

Irish Independent

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