Irish businesses welcome Brexit extension

Haulage association says extra six months is an opportunity for the Government and State agencies to refine contingency planning

British prime minister Theresa May  during a news conference following the EU  leaders’ summit in  Brussels where the Brexit extension was announced. Photograph:  Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

British prime minister Theresa May during a news conference following the EU leaders’ summit in Brussels where the Brexit extension was announced. Photograph: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

 

Industry groups have expressed relief that the EU and UK have agreed to extend the Brexit date to October 31st to give businesses more time to prepare for Britain’s exit.

Businesses have over recent months been rushing to put preparations in place for the UK potentially leaving the EU without an agreement, but most acknowledge that they were not ready for a chaotic exit.

In a reflection of just how unprepared industry was, just over half of the businesses that trade with the UK had registered for customs to be able to continue trading with Britain after Brexit.

“We are quite glad of the break,” said Verona Murphy, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association. “It had become very intense with preparations. We felt they were going to make a rushed decision, but at the end of the day it is not a crash-out.”

Ms Murphy said the six-month extension was an opportunity for the Government and various State agencies to brush up on their contingency planning to prepare for the UK’s exit.

“They were prepared but not proficient. For everything to work practically people need to know what they are doing. They can become more proficient over the next six months.”

The country’s biggest business group Ibec said that the delay avoided a catastrophic “no deal” exit this week, but it had hoped for a longer delay amid continuing political uncertainty around the UK’s exit.

“It has been a frustrating and incredibly costly period for business, and there is still no clarity,” said Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy.

“A ‘no-deal’ outcome always lacked credibility given the senseless damage that would be inflicted on both parties, but business was left with no option but to put in place expensive contingency plans. In many cases the cost has run into millions.”

Aidan Flynn, general manager of Freight Transport Association Ireland, said the extension averted a no-deal “cliff edge” Brexit for now, but urged businesses not to take the focus away from their preparations. “It is a relief because the Government and the industry were nowhere near ready.”

Consensus

Eamonn O’Reilly, chief executive of Dublin Port Company, said he hoped Britain could use the extension to find a consensus on aligning the UK as closely as possible to EU single market rules after Brexit.

“Anything that keeps the ball in play and aligned with single market rules and the same standards on food, that has got to be good.”

He said the delay meant that businesses like the port could work on other projects that they had been distracted from because of the focus on preparations for Brexit.

“It is not that we can be better prepared in six months; it just means that it is not the distraction in that time because we have enough else to be getting on with it,” he said, referring to the port’s long-term development plans costing tens of millions of euro.

Mr O’Reilly said that he did not expect the additional time would mean that businesses and State agencies would be completely ready for when Brexit eventually happens.

“Plans are great, but until you actually engage with the enemy, the plans are just that. I don’t think any amount of time allows you to be 100 per cent prepared. Whatever happens we hope that it is far less than a hard Brexit, and certainly the extra time is good to get people prepared.”