Progress made but many exporters still too focused on Britain

Concern over Brexit reaches all-time high but are companies doing enough to prepare?

With the food sector proving to be particularly vulnerable it is a worrying trend that sees exports to the UK actually rising

With the food sector proving to be particularly vulnerable it is a worrying trend that sees exports to the UK actually rising

 

First the good news. It seems judging by figures published by Enterprise Ireland on Wednesday that more companies are wising up to the dangers of Brexit.

Publishing its annual report, the State agency said that the number of companies who have “Brexit-proofed” their business jumped substantially last year with the organisation going so far as to work one-on-one with vulnerable clients on their contingency plans. Enterprise Ireland has also made €74 million in funding available to companies looking to pivot away from the UK.

Nonetheless, lest we all breathe a huge sigh of relief, chief executive Julie Sinnamon warned that as many as 25,000 jobs remain at risk due to a hard Brexit with those working in the food sector particularly vulnerable.

With just 78 days now remaining till B-Day, Ms Sinnamon’s comments will no doubt send a chill down the back of those who have yet to take real steps to mitigate against the impact of Brexit.

A report from Isme, also published on Wednesday showed that concern about Britain’s exit from the European Union has reached an all-time high with 33 per cent of member companies expressing fears over it, up from 19 per cent two-years ago and up 8 per cent compared to the last time the survey was conducted.

With the food sector proving to be particularly vulnerable it is a worrying trend that sees exports to the UK actually rising, particularly given significant fluctuations in the value of sterling over the last year.

If the increase in exports was a surprise so should the fact that a whopping 37 per cent of all food exported from the Republic still ends up in the UK. Given that companies have had a number of years to prepare for Brexit the fact that such a high number still see our neighbours as the go-to place for their produce should cause disquiet.

Ms Sinnamon said in her comments that Enterprise Ireland is continually trying to push home to client companies the idea that they should see the euro zone as a continuation of the domestic market. It would seem as though more food producers could do with digesting this nugget of wisdom.