Posted on Thursday 8 June 2017 by Ulster Business
David Elliott, editor of Ulster Business; Aidan Gough, InterTradeIreland’s Policy and Strategy Director; Tom Kelly, founder of Stakeholder Communications and former chair of Stronger in Europe; Will Taylor, founder of Glastry Farm Ice Cream; Johnny Hanna, Partner and Head of Tax at KPMG
“Plan for the worst case scenario and hope for the best”
That’s was the message from KPMG’s Partner and Head of Tax Johnny Hanna in reference to the likely outcome from the current discussions around the UK/European Union divorce.
He was speaking at the Ulster Business Brexit Breakfast, in association with KPMG, held at the MAC in Belfast where he and speakers from across the business world offered insight into how businesses have been preparing for Brexit and what we can expect in the future.
“We know the UK will leave the customs union and we know the UK will leave the single market,” he said. “Those two things on their own mean Brexit will be a big deal for many companies, so much so that even the prospect has forced many to act.”
He said preparation would be key for companies determined to thrive during what could be a difficult period in which to operate, for instance, advising consultancy business reliant on EU tenders to incorporate in the EU to be prepared for the separation.
Mr Hanna also pointed out that exporters in Northern Ireland are, in fact, looked upon enviously by those in the Republic.
“They think Northern Ireland companies have an advantage because they are part of a UK market of 70m people and their concern is people buying products in GB will choose to buy from within the Uk rather than go to the Republic.”
Tom Kelly, founder of Stakeholder Communications and former chair for Stronger in Europe, said a second referendum couldn’t be ruled out.
“If Theresa May gets a good enough majority then she might decide to put any deal she can negotiate to the people. A second referendum is possible.”
But he said that was a outside chance and in reality Brexit will be drawn out.
“It’s going to be a complicated process, not helped by an absentee Executive.”
He said a lot of work has been carried out by government in the Republic but said interest in Northern Ireland’s interests from Westminster appears weak.
“I can’t tell you how little some of them know about our situation. In the past there were Tories who had family here or interest in Ireland but there are very few today.”
Aidan Gough, InterTradeIreland’s Policy and Strategy Director, agreed with Johnny Hanna’s comments on prior planning, particularly given a recent survey by the agency found that 98% of businesses in Northern Ireland have not taken any action to ready themselves for Brexit.
“There are actions which can be taken now to prepare: innovation, lean techniques and actions which should be aimed at the worst case scenario. We’re telling business to take action now and also to engage with policy makers to let them know what is happening on the ground so they can negotiate properly.”
Will Taylor, founder of Glastry Farm Ice Cream, said he had already found subtle barriers appearing for his exports to the Republic.
“We’ve already started to look at GB and are actively looking at a distribution network there and have even had productive meetings with buyers in the United Arab Emirates.”