People expected that Brexit could have been much worse

By Maurice Garvey

PREPARATION has been a key aspect for local businesses to navigate Brexit, according to South Dublin Chamber CEO Peter Byrne.

The long awaited EU-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA), known as the ‘EU’UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement’ was finalised on December 24.

Peter Byrne 5 1

South Dublin Chamber CEO Peter Byrne

As of January 1, the UK is regarded as a ‘third country’ outside the EU, creating trade barriers and cross-border mobility and exchanges that did not previously exist.

The UK is the most important export and import partner for Irish businesses and members of the South Dublin chamber, and long may that continue.

Higher volumes of paperwork and transport delays has been cited as an issue by local companies who are engaged in business with their UK counterparts over the last few weeks.

While it is still early days with regard to Brexit, Mr Byrne says the “overall reaction” from members is one of “relief”.

“People expected it could have been much worse. Those who prepared found it ok to navigate. A big problem is that so much happened so late in the day and logistics companies got hit hard.

“The number one complaint we are getting is from people who did no preparation, they thought it would be sorted politically, and have run into all sorts of issues like paperwork and logistics.

“Fortunately, January is a reasonably quiet month. The big push for retail is in December but by and large when any system gets really busy, there will be issues, and we will see this when the market picks up in March/April.”

South Dublin Chamber sent out information to members this week on the FTA, and the huge range of supports that are available to help businesses to navigate the months ahead.

Of utmost importance, according to Byrne, is that businesses do not feel “overwhelmed”.

“We have done a lot of work with the LEO and South Dublin County Council on the Business Sustainability Programme. The main thing is to identify what the problem is. Businesses have specific needs. If people can identify the problem, we might be able to find the thought piece. Everything is new, this is a learning curve for us all.”

Byrne acknowledges it is a challenge “particularly for SME’s” who might not have the resources to source a new warehouse in the UK or “someone in the office to read through all the forms”.

“The supports are there. When trade is going well, you don’t see it. Customs and Revenue have done a lot of work to help Irish businesses.”

Down the line, there is a danger that some UK companies could be forced to increase their prices to combat tariffs, but Byrne says existing relationships between Irish and UK businesses will be a big asset going forward.

“There is always the risk, on top of currency fluctuation. Most Irish and British businesses don’t want that and if any Irish business has concerns, they need to share that with their British counterparts.”

A full list of business Covid supports are also available at Coronavirus Information.

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