Two thirds of Irish exporters ‘unprepared’ for Brexit
Enterprise Ireland chief says changing landscape for businesses ‘not a blip’
Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon: “The Brexit impact on Ireland is the most significant change for Irish business that we have probably ever seen.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Almost two thirds of Irish export companies have said they are unprepared for Brexit, and have not put any counter measures in place over the last six months.
Irish companies identified a lack of information on alternative markets to the UK as the chief hindrance to identifying and honing in on new targets.
With continued uncertainty as to how Brexit will ultimately affect the Irish export landscape, 600 companies responded to an Enterprise Ireland (EI) survey.
Of those, two thirds of companies said they plan to export to the euro zone within the next 12 months.
Germany has emerged as the most favoured potential with 22 per cent of respondents believing it offered an alternative target market followed by France (16 per cent), the Netherlands (14 per cent) and Belgium and Spain (11 per cent).
However, almost a quarter of companies (23 per cent) said a lack of market information dominated a list of obstacles. Further issues included costs (22 per cent), human resources (17 per cent) and languages (13 per cent).
A further 11 per cent of companies said the need to adapt their products posed problems, as did regulations among 10 per cent of companies.
EI released the findings of its market research on Wednesday, at the first day of its International Markets Week (IMW) in which hundreds of companies will engage in about 2,000 specialised meetings over three days.
IMW participation has grown by 33 per cent in 2017, an indicator of growing concerns over the threat of Brexit fallout.
Highlighting the epicentre of trade disruption, EI chief executive Julie Sinnamon pointed to the continued deterioration of the exchange rate with sterling.
“What we are seeing is a massive change because this is not a blip,” she said.
“The Brexit impact on Ireland is the most significant change for Irish business that we have probably ever seen. We don’t know where it is going to end up but what we do know is people need to plan.”
Alternative markets are a key feature. Irish exports broke records last year with €21.6 billion in valuation.
Ms Sinnamon, however, pointed out that the size of exports had to be seen in the context of their global spread.
While UK exports grew in 2016 by 2 per cent, this was down on a previous rate of 12 per cent. However, North American exports rose by 19 per cent to €3.74 billion, the largest gain, and Latin America by 17 per cent to €0.23 billion.
A further reflection of the need to address the looming spectre of Brexit is the increase in EI trade missions, up 33 per cent in the first half of this year with a 126 per cent bump in the number of companies participating.
Addressing the IMW launch, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Frances Fitzgerald said increasing export sales translated into creating and sustaining Irish jobs.
“Ireland today faces the greatest set of economic and political challenges in a generation as a result of Brexit,” she said.
“We do also have to imagine the trading world post-Brexit whatever new trading relationships that brings.”