Sunday 25 August 2019

The stumble towards Brexit and uncertain times for retailers

The problem with Brexit is that it's a game-changer. All bets are off. The historic, cultural and societal links between our two lands will now be used a bargaining chip on the negotiating table Photo: Reuters
The problem with Brexit is that it's a game-changer. All bets are off. The historic, cultural and societal links between our two lands will now be used a bargaining chip on the negotiating table Photo: Reuters

'Stumbling towards the Brexit". It's hard to believe the phrase 'Brexit' was coined less than four years ago. Peter Wilding, the founder of the British Influence think-tank, wrote about it in May 2012, before then British Prime Minister David Cameron had announced he would hold a referendum to appease the Eurosceptic ranks of the Tory Party.

The inspiration obviously came from 'Grexit', which was the reference to Greece's threatened departure from the eurozone at the time.

Mr Wilding, who went on to campaign for Britain to remain in the EU, is now credited with inventing the phrase which is now so dominant in the political discourse in this country, our neighbours across the Irish Sea and on the continent. Appropriately, his first use of the term was a reference to "stumbling towards the Brexit".

Not much has changed in between, as Britain is still very much stumbling towards Brexit. Even six months after the referendum result, there is still no sign of what one could view as a coherent plan emerging from Downing Street.

British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger the start of the negotiations on the departure from the EU in 2017.

Worryingly, there have been ever more ominous signals coming from London over recent weeks about the special status of Irish people living in Britain, so long regarded as an intrinsic part of the landscape.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has sought to assuage concerns on this front, saying the treatment of Irish citizens in Britain is separate to the approach to be adopted towards other EU citizens. He pointed out the rights of Irish citizens in Britain were attained over a long period, pre-dating EU membership.

The matter will be on the agenda when Ms May pays her first visit to Ireland in the new year.

The problem with Brexit is that it's a game-changer. All bets are off. The historic, cultural and societal links between our two lands will now be used a bargaining chip on the negotiating table.

The consequences on the economic front are even more stark. Any political parties failing to factor a worst-case scenario into their public finance machinations have clearly learned nothing from the demise of the Celtic Tiger.

The Brexit effect will be felt today as the majority of retailers kick into sales mode this morning.

A drop in pre-Christmas sales, combined with the uncertainty of the impact of Brexit, will combine to prompt dramatic price cuts as businesses seek to get stock off their shelves, specifically items ordered before the subsequent sterling currency fluctuations. The relative weakness of the pound is also drawing shoppers to Northern Ireland. The rise in economic fortunes - albeit only for some - has also seen the Transatlantic shopping sojourn return.

These are already challenging times for the retail sector. The growth of internet sales has eaten into the pie of sales available. It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good and sales shoppers will, undoubtedly, benefit from the value of offer from the January sales.

Taking advantage of the lower prices isn't something to feel guilty about. The retail sector is a vital part of the economy in every city, town and village up and down the country, employing hundreds of thousands of people on a local level, so is always deserving of support.

Your bargain shopping on main street is keeping the cash local and helping local jobs in uncertain times.

Irish Independent

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