Thursday 17 October 2019

Noonan is confident Irish exporters will 'ride out' Brexit storm

Finance Minister Michael Noonan Picture: Collins
Finance Minister Michael Noonan Picture: Collins

David Raleigh

Former minister for finance, Michael Noonan, said he is confident Irish exporters will be “able to cope” after Brexit.

Mr Noonan said “uncertainty” “generated by the British Parliament” over the UK’s plans to exit the EU by March 29, was “bad for business, bad for investment, and bad for trade”.

However, he said he believes exporters can “ride out” the storm, adding that Ireland should not be too concerned about Brexit.

“It’s disappointing, but that being said Irish industry is very resilient - the export side is very resilient," he said.

"And, something that has never been discussed is, the fact that, when the (Brexit) referendum took place, the pound sterling was trading at around 72 cents. It was (trading at) 86 this morning, and it went to 90 two weeks ago. That’s a devaluation of over 30pc at sterling, and Irish exports went up to the UK.”

“What I’m saying is that, a devaluation of sterling is almost the equivalent of a tariff of the same magnitude, and yet the Irish exporting (industry)...have succeeded in holding their position, and increasing their position in the English market. So we are resilient, we are able to cope.”

Mr Noonan was speaking in his native Limerick where he officially cut the ribbon on the €17.6m Gardens International development, which is offering 112,000 sq ft gold standard office space in the heart of Limerick city. Aircraft leasing firm Nordic Aviation Capital are set to become the first tenants in the state of the art complex shortly.

Ireland should not be worried about Brexit, he continued: “If we could, on the export side, maintain our exports and indeed increase them to the UK, against devaluation of (sterling) at over 30pc, well, then, it seems to me the Irish export sector is very resilient. I think, with the exception of some of the food items, we’ll ride it out. Certainly, there will be a set back, but it won’t be catastrophic.”

Mr Noonan said there are no plans for a general election on the back of Brexit.

“The government is three years in office and there’s another two years to go. That’s not what Michael Martin tied the confidence and supply (deal) to. He said he wouldn't have an election now because of Brexit, but he tied the period of the government to one more budget, so that carries it on. His definition of a Budget is not only the announcement on budget day, but the Finance Bill, and the Social Welfare Bill; and they won’t be through until next Christmas. So, it seems to me that no one is thinking about an election at the moment.”

Mr Noonan said he believed Teresa May’s Brexit negotiations with the EU “didn’t appear to be a smooth or efficient”, adding the British Prime Minister does not deserve all of the blame for the current situation.

“I’m sure there was a lot of people at fault. She was in a difficult position, and she still is,” he added.

Mr Noonan said he was confident the EU would not “cave in” at the eleventh hour to Mrs May’s current Brexit plans.

“I’ll tell you this much, the EU wont cave in anyway. I know those people very well, I worked with them for years. There’ll be no cave in.”

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