CORK business leaders have been told to prepare for the “biggest challenge in 50 years” as Britain and the EU thrash out the details of a hard Brexit.
Representatives from businesses across Cork attended the first Enterprise Ireland Brexit roadshow in the Maryborough Hotel yesterday.
They were addressed by Martin Corkery, Enterprise Ireland’s south and south-east regional director, and Anne Lannigan, manager of Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit unit.
Ms Lannigan said that Brexit is the “biggest challenge in 50 years, possibly in the history of the state” for Irish businesses. She said that it was not an acute problem that could be dealt with easily, but a “chronic illness” that needed far more attention.
Outlining the facts, she said that 37% of the exports from Enterprise Ireland’s clients went to the UK, and that was worth €7.5 billion in 2015. She said that the ties between the Irish market and the UK market meant that many businesses did not even treat them as different.
Ms Lannigan said that the best approach to preparing for Brexit was to prepare for the worst possible outcome.
“If you are prepared for a hard Brexit, you will be ready for any kind of Brexit,” she said.
She said that while there were obvious issues like currency fluctuations, that people needed to be wary of what would happen in their supply chain, or how their sales would be affected by the inevitable campaigns encouraging people in the UK to buy UK-made products in order to support their own economy.
The warning came as a UK supermarket chain the Co-op announced it would sell only British fresh meat yesterday.
The supermarket chain is pushing for a ‘British-only’ style campaign to prepare for Brexit.
The Co-op singled out Ireland as the “biggest beneficiary of EU meat trade with the UK.”
It called on other supermarkets and food service providers to “back home-grown goods” from Britain so that “British food” may take “pride of place in our British aisles.”