Business Economic Breakfast Events
John Fahey, a Senior Economist at AIB provided an economic overview and insight which made it clear that a hard Brexit was most likely and that if that was to be the case, it would represent a clear and present danger for both the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland economies. He suggested that Northern Ireland risked being more isolated from Europe and increasingly dependent on the UK export market, which itself could be damaged in the short to medium term by Brexit, as any new trading arrangements would take some time to put in place.
He identified key sectors such as agri-food, manufacturing, tourism, and energy as being particularly vulnerable to the implications of a hard Brexit. While he noted the short term benefits in cross-border trade due to the weakened sterling and the potential for some RoI businesses to consider moving north to secure access to UK markets, he believed that NI would on balance be negatively impacted by a hard Brexit. He pointed to the loss of access to EU structural funds and other EU funding, the likelihood of NI being less attractive for foreign direct investment and the potential damage caused by any disruption and increased costs to trade as the main factors.
At the Newry event, Johnny Hanna, Senior partner at audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG, also shared his thoughts on how businesses can navigate through the ongoing uncertainty and prepare themselves for the changes ahead.
At the Dungannon & Derry event, Mark Wilson from Bloc Blinds also shared his thoughts on how businesses can navigate through the ongoing uncertainty and prepare themselves for the changes ahead. He pointed to investigating automation in the production process to challenge potential skills and labour shortages, exploring warehousing and stock options to meet tight deadlines for European customers, and increasing business liquidity to have the means to implement changes as required.
Summarising the event, Philip O’Kennedy, Regional Director at First Trust Bank said; While the economic forecast is for Northern Ireland to avoid recession in 2017 as consumers continue to provide support for economic growth, the key issue for both businesses and policy makers remains whether our strengths are sufficient to navigate the unchartered waters brought about by Brexit. We have particular reasons to be worried here in Northern Ireland and indeed on the island of Ireland. Against this backdrop of uncertainty, it is important that we bring as much clarity to the concerns of businesses as possible, so we can try and mitigate against the risks and help identify any opportunities that may be presented. We found the debates very helpful and we will use the discussions and feedback to reinforce our planning and our ability to best support our customers as we navigate the months and years ahead.”