Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, today said new EU Brexit negotiating guidelines reinforce the need for an early agreement on UK exit terms to allow substantial trade talks begin. Ibec welcomed the significant achievement in the explicit recognition of the unique risks that Brexit poses to Ireland. For business, however, massive uncertainty remains. The government must work closely with business to set out ambitious and pragmatic ways to overcome the considerable challenges ahead.
Ibec CEO Danny McCoy said: "The EU-UK divorce bill debate is a minor distraction in economic terms compared to what ultimately is at stake. Rapid progress needs to be made on exit arrangements, so meaningful trade talks can begin. The EU guidelines clearly provide scope for trade negotiations to start long before a UK exit, but even if that happens, comprehensive transitional arrangements will be needed."
Ibec cautioned that a massive and dangerous gap existed between current UK objectives and what was realistically possible within the parameters of the EU guidelines. "It is vital that the shared economic interests of the EU and UK inform the mood and timetable of negotiations," said Mr McCoy. "Political posturing needs to give way to pragmatism, and this needs to happen quickly. A far-reaching free trade deal with minimal trade barriers is the goal, but fair competition must also underpin any new relationship.
"Brexit has created great uncertainty for business. An assertive national effort is needed to avoid the very real risk of a divisive, damaging Brexit divorce, and the UK crashing out of the EU without a trade deal or transitional arrangements," said Mr McCoy.
Ibec is advising all member companies to examine how Brexit might impact their business and is providing contingency planning support. The Ibec guide to managing Brexit is available at www.ibec.ie/brexit. The guide sets out the potential implications for companies, and includes a toolkit to help companies assess the risks and prepare a response. It looks at the potential impact on key sectors, but also at how Brexit may affect currency transactions, supply chains, contracts, financing and the labour force, among other issues.