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.