Historic Brexit conference held in Carrickdale Hotel in Dundalk
The Carrickdale Hotel which hosted a Brexit conference on Wednesday - the first of its kind - was attended by nearly 400 people, including representatives from Louth County Council, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council, the Newry and Dundalk Chambers of Commerce, InterTradeIreland and Dundalk and Newry’s Local Enterprise Offices.
The conference explored issues surrounding Brexit and aimed to give practical advice on the subject to business owners in the locality. Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, was also in attendance and was the keynote speaker.
The Tánaiste said he was “heartened” to see such strong communication between cross-border organisations. During his speech, Minister Coveney provided reassurance on the European Council agreement in December. He also commented on what is important in the next stage of negotiations, stressing that any type of border North-South or East-West would have disastrous effects economically, politically and socially. He also highlighted the importance of ensuring that we are all “Brexit-Ready”.
There was a wide range of speakers at the conference who provided very comprehensive advice on issues such as customs, taxation and movement of people.
During his presentation, Oliver Mangan, the Chief Economist of AIB, warned the conference that Brexit is expected to lower the Irish economy’s growth rate. This is due to the fact that trade with UK equates to 35% of Irish GDP, the UK takes some 40% of Irish indigenous firm’s exports, and there is a common labour market between Ireland and the UK because the Common Travel Area pre-dates EU membership. Mr Mangan also added that the Border with Northern Ireland will become external EU land border, with possible customs checks and other restrictions on free movement of goods post Brexit.
KPMG, the tax, auditory and advisory company, also gave a presentation. Aoife Newton, Head of Corporate Immigration and Employment, Johnny Hanna, Partner, and Philip McNally, Corporate Immigration Manager, explained how employees’ working rights will be affected. If an employee doesn’t have UK citizenship, they may not be eligible to work in the UK after Brexit. The KPMG team offered advice to the local business on how they can prepare for this.
Rose Tierney of Tierney Tax Consultancy delivered a talk on how taxes will be affected by Brexit, and how companies can prepare for these changes. Carol Lynch, a partner of BDO Customs and Trade Services, also explained to the conference how Britain leaving the customs union will affect the movement of goods.
Thomas McEvoy of the Louth Enterprise Office highlighted the challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises in the wake of Brexit. He showed the audience concrete steps that SMEs can take to minimise the damage Brexit could cause. Areas Mr McEvoy spoke about included assessing exposure to Brexit, competitiveness, innovation, new markets, and complacency.
Margaret Hearty of InterTradeIreland also gave a presentation on how businesses can cushion themselves against the impact of Brexit. She recommends business owners to plan, act and engage. She also advises businesses to not ignore Brexit, but also don’t panic about it.
“Brexit is one of the most significant challenges facing business and our community in recent generations,” says Cllr. Colm Markey, the Cathaoirleach of Louth County Council. “Because of its potential impact it is critically important businesses start preparing for Brexit. I’m delighted that Louth County Council is co-hosting this informative event with our cross-border partners which will help businesses start their preparations.”
“Newry, Mourne and Down District Council were delighted to co-host this conference with key local and cross-border partners in an area which will be most impacted by Brexit,” says Councillor Roisin Mulgrew, Chairperson of Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. “The conference reinforced that businesses need to start planning now to prepare for all eventualities in order to mitigate future risks and minimise the impact of Brexit’.”
“The scale of this event is a clear indication of the importance of Brexit dialogue and engagement on all levels,” added Paul Convery, President of Newry Chamber of Commerce. “It was an unrivalled platform for our members to see and fully understand the support that the Chambers and our cross-border partners are providing”.
President of Dundalk Chamber of Commerce, Michael Gaynor, also praised the event. “We are delighted with the huge turnout of attendees and the success of the event. The collective nature of engagement was unprecedented and further validates the importance of this issue for all of our members.”