The recent turning point for Irish business in the Brexit debate was Prime Minister May’s Lancaster speech in January, when we were confronted with the reality that the UK would walk away from the single market and exist in an entirely different customs regime. For Irish business, this is a situation of great peril as tariffs would be devastating for goods exporters and regulatory inconsistencies could cause havoc for services and other industries.
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny's recent Mansion House speech laid the stake for Ireland's negotiating position. He recognised the enormous challenges for the Irish business community. Crucially he also committed on key policy measures Ibec had recommended to support industries most heavily impacted by Brexit. Last week's All Island Civic Dialogue was further affirmation of a determination within government to align domestic stakeholders in advance of the commencement of negotiations. It also demonstrated the seriousness of the scenario for both business and society north and south of this island along with the enormity of the political challenge.
In Brussels yesterday, I had further meetings with my counterparts from other European business federations at BusinessEurope to ensure that the position of Irish business is understood. I have also continued to meet with key European Council and Commission negotiators and their teams establishing strong lines of communication in order to establish Ibec as a reference point once negotiations commence. Yesterday colleagues and I met with Sabine Weyand, Deputy Chief Negotiator, European Commission Brexit Task Force, headed by Michel Barnier. Ibec is also supporting Government's effort in Europe and recently participated in Minister Harris’ initiative to pitch Ireland for the relocation of the European Medicines Agency. Engagement with UK political stakeholders is also paramount and since I was last in touch we have held meetings with Northern Ireland Secretary of State Brokenshire, the House of Commons Committee for Exiting the EU and the UK Department of Business Energy and Industrial strategy. We also had an important interaction this week with the US Senate Finance Committee during its visit to Dublin.
Last week at Dublin Castle, I took the opportunity to brief the international media corps on Brexit and used the opportunity to communicate a message of confidence around the strength and substance of the Irish business model. It is critical that as business leaders we weather any negative rhetoric encountered by putting forward the facts, which are exceptionally positive. We should be irrepressible about our growth prospects regardless of big challenges. Preparations are underway at Ibec to launch an international communications campaign on the substance of the Irish business model as part of which you and colleagues will be provided with supporting material to share the story of business in Ireland, its evolution, substance and future. Your participation in this campaign will be vital to maintaining confidence in our reputation.
The recent domestic political turmoil has calmed this week and while change is inevitable, uncertainty around the outcome is unhelpful at this time. Within the Dáil we are observing the consequences of pandering to populism with legislative initiatives on the labour market and infrastructure (most recently over the North South Interconnector). Political consensus on a no harm approach to the operating environment for business is the very least we can demand in these circumstances. Political forces need to galvanise behind the investment agenda and ensure that government shows real ambition behind delivering on an improved Capital Investment Plan and the importance of this as a strong message of confidence and optimism to foreign investors, international money markets and domestic stakeholders. Government's consultation on the National Planning Framework (NPF) is an important opportunity for the business community to articulate its vision for a more prosperous Ireland in 2040, with a world class infrastructure throughout the island. Ibec is leading the debate strongly on this work.
We are at an important juncture regarding Brexit, Ibec is developing a comprehensive position which we will update you on once article 50 is triggered.
As always, your feedback and thoughts are welcome.
All the best,
Friday, 24 February 2017