Businesses ‘not being listened to’ on Brexit

Potential tariffs and checks could increase cross-border trade costs by €100 per journey

Border Communities Against Brexit set up an old customs post at Carrickcarnon between Dundalk and Newry. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

The EU and European governments are not listening to the concerns of European businesses in relation to Brexit, according to a new report.

The three main areas of concern highlighted in the report by the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe (COBCOE) include barriers to trade, uncertainty in the Brexit process and the UK's role as Europe's global springboard.

Giving the perspective of businesses operating across the EU, it calls for those involved in the Brexit negotiation process to refocus their efforts to recognise and act on the concerns of businesses.

Ireland is identified in the report as the country for which the UK is one of its most important export market with goods worth 14.1 per cent of GDP destined for the UK. With almost half of EU FDI inward flows going to the UK, Ireland is identified in the report as one of top five investment partners.


“In this time of unprecedented uncertainty, agreement on a transitionary arrangement is now critical if we are to avoid a disruption in UK-Ireland trade,” said John McGrane, director-general of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, which contributed to the report.

The report states that the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit negotiation process and the short-time frame allocated to negotiations on the future EU-UK trading relationship are impacting investment and commercial decisions by European business leaders.

It identifies Ireland as one of the countries that will be particularly impacted by any impositions of tariffs and customs procedures. It mentions the integration of supply chains across the border as being “substantial”.

It gives the example of all wheat grown here being processed in the North and 30 per cent of the milk produced in the North being processed in the South.

The report cites an Irish logistics firm which estimates that the potential introduction of tariffs and customs procedures would increase the cost of cross border trade by €100 per journey.

Many businesses interviewed for the report suggested that the introduction of new customs procedures would require significant investment in facilities and increased employment by the UK and Irish governments.

“To ensure frictionless intra-European trade, the Chamber will be advocating strongly for the UK to seek a tailored customs arrangement with the EU. We believe such an outcome will best protect the interests of business on these islands,” said Mr McGrane.

Innovation was identified in the report as an area where the UK plays an important role as a springboard within the EU and will be impacted by Brexit.

Irish businesses participating in the report noted that between 2004 and 2015, more than 16,500 research papers were co-authored by academics from the UK and Ireland.

Collaborations with the UK were cited as being critical to many ongoing research projects and the UK was mentioned as Ireland’s most significant research partner in Horizon 2020, an EU research funding programme.