By Eamon Quinn
A consultancy has been launched which plans to help exporting Irish firms establish markets in mainland Europe at a time of great uncertainty about how existing trade with Britain will shape up after Brexit.
The Linkage-Partnership, which has opened offices in the Netherlands, Switzerland, as well as Ireland, is backed by John Whelan, the former chief executive of the Irish Exporters’ Association and an Irish Examiner columnist.
Mr Whelan will head up the consultancy’s Irish office, while Frank Murray, chairman of the Swiss-Irish Business Association, will run its Swiss office, and Brian English, founder and chief executive of Qupact International, which provides advice on developing export sales, will head up the Linkage-Partnership office in the Netherlands.
“The UK budget showed that greater urgency is required in preparing for Brexit. The main thing coming out of this budget is that the UK still expects a good deal out of Brussels, which does not seem realistic,” said Mr Whelan.
The new consultancy would help Irish firms by lessening their dependence on the UK.
“Whether it is a soft or hard Brexit, Irish firms need to be in mainland Europe, and not be exposed to the gyrations of sterling.
“There is a mistaken belief that our access to the wealthiest trading bloc in the world, the EU, has been followed by substantial increases in our exports there. The reality is otherwise.
“Forty-five years after our accession, exports by Irish-owned companies to the eurozone have only reached €4.6bn, accounting for just one fifth of total exports from the sector,” said Mr Whelan, citing figures that of the 3,000 Irish firms registered with Enterprise Ireland, only 89 had gone into eurozone markets for the first time last year.
Mr English said there is “clearly” an opportunity for Irish firms to drive into new European markets.
“We will provide first-hand experience in cracking what has traditionally been highly challenging markets,” he said.