No-deal would ‘stifle growth for a generation’

The present position of Brexit is “like a grotesque version of the TV show Deal or No Deal, a Cork exporter of medical products has said, ahead of the crucial House of Commons vote tomorrow.

Owen Curtin, founder of Healthcare 21, said given the magnitude of the potential impact of Brexit on all businesses in Ireland and on everyday life, letting the situation go to the wire is irresponsible to firms and employees on both sides of the Irish Sea.

He was speaking as businesses in the North urged British politicians to seek a compromise to avoid crashing out of the EU.

Mr Curtin’s firm, a specialist supplier of innovation-led healthcare products, employs more than 450 staff in Ireland, the UK, Germany, and Austria and has a turnover in excess of €150m.

He said irrespective of whether there is a deal or no deal, both local importers and exporters will have significant additional costs.

“There will be delays, disruption to, and increased costs in the supply chain. A no-deal Brexit will have a very severe impact on the entire Irish economy and as a small open exporting and importing nation, the departure of our biggest trading partner from the EU will be significantly detrimental to our future competitiveness and will cause job losses,” said Mr Curtin.

He said business has to prepare for “chaos”.

“Dublin Port, which handles 90% of all road freight into Ireland, estimates that the number of non-EU trucks entering the port will go from 200,000 each year to in excess of 1m trucks immediately, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“It is obvious that our customs and ports infrastructure cannot cater for these numbers. We have not invested sufficiently to plan for this since the Brexit referendum in 2016.

The investment, for example, in Brexit will amount to €30m in Dublin Port.

“The present position of Brexit is like some grotesque version of the TV show Deal or No Deal. It is anyone’s guess even whether we will have a no deal, a short technical extension, or an agreed exit deal with a 19-month transition,” said Mr Curtin.

More than 50 businesses warned MPs, in an open letter, of the dangers of failing to unite behind a solution that avoids a hard border and protects peace and economic progress in the North.

Among the signatories to the letter were local and multinational employers including Bombardier, Coca-Cola, Danske Bank, Norbrook Laboratories, Queen’s University, the Viridian Group, and Ulster Bank.

They said the North’s business community is deeply concerned that firms are hugely exposed to the economic fallout from leaving the EU, with or without a deal, and were already hurting from a lack of investment ahead of Brexit.

“A no-deal Brexit will result in significant damage to our export markets, supply chains, consumer spending power, and the region’s competitiveness,” states the letter.

“Such a scenario will both hinder indigenous and foreign direct investment, it would result in significant job losses and will stifle opportunities for the next generation.”

With Britain due to exit on March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May has failed to secure changes to the deal needed to gain parliamentary support, including from the pro-Brexit DUP propping up her minority government. Northern business groups have long urged the DUP to drop its opposition.

Additional reporting Reuters

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