Saturday 24 August 2019

Wexford can benefit from Brexit in financial services sector

Brexit impact

Wexford County Council CEO Tom Enright
Wexford County Council CEO Tom Enright

Brendan Keane

County Wexford could become a vibrant hub within the financial services sector as a result of Brexit if a strategy being worked on by Wexford County Council achieves its targeted goal.

Speaking to this newspaper the local authority's chief executive officer, Tom Enright, said that while there are many negative aspects to Brexit there are also some possible reasons to be optimistic.

'I think there are some opportunities [from Brexit] as well,' he said.

'A lot financial services companies are setting up in Ireland and moving out of the UK because of Brexit,' he added.

'There have been a large number of licence applications to the Central Bank from these companies and I can see potential there.'

Mr Enright highlighted that there are already a large number of financial services companies and businesses operating out of Wexford and he said the local authority is actively engaged in developing property solutions that could entice more of those types of companies to relocate to the Model County.

'We have property solutions coming on-stream such as the two buildings beside the Hatch Lab in Gorey,' he said.

He also commented on planning for two new buildings in the technology park in Enniscorthy and the fact that the Trinity Wharf plan will be going to An Bord Pleanala within the next few months.

Mr Enright said the local authority will be working on attracting financial companies into Wexford and said the hope is that some of the businesses leaving the UK will relocate here.

However, he said Brexit also poses a lot of challenges for Wexford based businesses especially those involved in the food sector.

'We have a lot of food producers in Wexford and lot of the food that's produced here goes to the UK so that is a challenge,' he said.

'There could be trade restrictions,' he added.

Mr Enright said that beef and fish exporters along with those involved in the aquaculture industry are among the companies that could face big challenges in the months ahead.

Mr Enright said there is an opportunity to develop Rosslare Europort in a way that maximises its potential.

'It's a strategically important port and is the closest direct link between Ireland and mainland Europe,' he said.

He said funding has been secured to design the new harbour access road and added there is potential to get better port-side facilities.

Mr Enright said the port needs to have an operating management structure that is separate to Iarnród Éireann.

'It would mean you can invest profits back into the port and it needs to operate as a standalone facility,' he said.

Wexford County Council, along with other local authorities in the south east, has also appointed a consultant to look at the issues as part of the regional action plan for jobs.

'We need to have a properly functioning port,' said Mr Enright.

Wexford County Council members agreed to set up a taskforce to look at the overall situation with regard to Rosslare and Mr Enright said he will be addressing that body later this month.

A meeting of the task force hasn't taken place yet but its full structure and membership was due to be agreed upon at this month's meeting of the local authority.

Mr Enright said he expected a meeting of the task force will take place very soon after the council meeting.

'The withdrawal of Irish Ferries is significant and there is a need to invest in the port,' he said.

He added that the opening of the bypasses around New Ross and Enniscorthy in July will also 'open up the entire county' and make Rosslare Harbour even more accessible.

'It is much quicker to travel by road through Rosslare than into Dublin [Port],' he said.

Mr Enright emphasised that the local authority is working on developing supports for local small to medium sized enterprises that face serious challenges because of Brexit.

'The Local Enterprise Office has developed programmes to address concerns for SMEs around Brexit and Enterprise Ireland also has supports in place as well,' he said.

Gorey Guardian