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Ireland facing ‘quality of life’ challenge

Cantillon: housing and education need to be addressed if Ireland is to get Brexit bonus

Accelerating the building of new homes in Ireland will be a crucial element in securing investment from companies looking to relocate from London to the EU post-Brexit. Photograph: Getty Images

The Government is pinning a lot of hope on a Brexit bonus. Amid widespread concern about the potential fallout of Britain’s departure from the EU on the Irish economy, the Government is donning the Green Jersey as it pursues the prospect of an influx of highly-paid jobs in areas like banking, insurance and regulation.

That includes an ambitious campaign to persuade the EU to relocate the European Medicines Agency’s 900 staff to the city following Britain’s departure from the EU.

But it runs the risk of coming up largely empty-handed despite many hints and promises of jobs to come.

While the decision on the EMA will ultimately be a political one at EU level, increasing attention has been given to the critical issue of staff retention. A recent report for the pharma industry noted that it would take up to two years to bring replacement staff up to speed – assuming you could find the replacement staff.

It warned against forcing the agency to relocate to any city that would lead to an exodus.

Reports from inside the agency suggest that Amsterdam is a favoured destination. While Ireland is not in the “staff exodus” zone with Sofia in Bulgaria or the Romanian capital Bucharest, it is considered some way down the most-favoured list.

The reason why?

The concern cited by the EU is education, with few details available of just how places will be found for the children of staff in our often overcrowded schools.

And then there is housing. Figures published on Monday note that official figures overstate the number of new homes being built by a factor of three. With around 35,000 homes a year needed to meet demand, the Government thinks it is close to 15,000 but the real figure appears to be closer to 5,000. There are plenty of offices, mind you.

With property prices rising by double-digits and rents hitting record highs, that’s hardly likely to tempt even those contending with London’s cost of living.

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