How Cork can benefit from fallout of Brexit

I hope those who have influence on policy and decision-making in Cork had a good old brainstorming session last week.

How Cork can benefit from fallout of Brexit

The subject ought to have been a major event in the neighbourhood — Brexit.

As the dust settles around that remarkable referendum there are numerous questions unanswered and that will remain the case for many months.

However, it is very hard to believe that major employers who conduct a pan-European strategy will not now seek a hedge against whatever risk comes from the EU curtailing access to its enormous marketplace.

That is where Ireland, and Cork, can matter.

To begin, it is critical that clear and unequivocal messages are broadcast by Government.

Indeed, the virtual national government currently in place could be an advantage if it provides cross-party commitments to: being the only English speaking fully signed up 100% member of the euro, EU and single market mechanisms; retaining the 12.5% corporate tax regime; re-iterating our openness to investment, and; highlighting the geographic, cultural and financial advantages for an investor exposed to Britain outside the EU contemplating an investment inside the single market.

Drilling down from that overarching perspective Cork needs to have its own ducks in a straight row around this issue.

The city offers 16 50-minute flights each day to London.

It has access to schools, hospitals, and universities that are at least on a par with those available in the UK.

Quality of life, including leisure time, is as good if not better than many areas in the south-east of the UK.

The opportunities are immense. Not only will companies decide to locate important functions within the EU but a myriad of others will use this opportunity to re-locate to places that offer structurally lower operating costs than those that apply in London. Commercial and residential properties are factually less expensive in Ireland than in London and that is even more pronounced when describing cities outside Dublin.

Last week the chief executive of the US company AgCo gave his view on Brexit.

That name may not resonate with many, but it owns the Massey Ferguson business and he employs 400 people in the UK, many in administration and finance. Mr Richenhagen was unequivocal — AgCo will shift jobs to other EU states to protect its interests in Europe.

Many other companies are exploring that route, too, although they will be coy about publicising that work given understandable short-term sensitivities in Britain.

It is imperative that Ireland puts its best foot forward as this process unfolds. Business detests uncertainty and volatility and it is being exposed to a bucket full of it for the foreseeable future.

Ireland, through all institutions including the Dáil, the Central Bank, IDA Ireland and across our network of Embassies should emphasise stability and consistency as hallmarks of our economic and industrial policy.

That will resonate strongly with companies already invested in the Republic and the range of employers that have had a huge headache imposed upon them in the past week.

In the 1980s the IDA shaped a tremendous campaign around the “We are the young Europeans” tag-line.

Alongside a cool advertising campaign there was a political will to provide flexibility and support for any international investor contemplating Ireland as a base.

If an advanced factory was needed it was built. If road infrastructure was required it happened. If fast training was needed for new employees it was delivered. A similar call to arms is required now.

By harnessing the nous and diplomatic skills of Irish civil servants, backed by a political establishment that puts aside the usual cat fighting, we can take on the economic emergency that Brexit creates with purpose and determination.

If a board member or senior executive of a major company exposed to Britain knocks on our door he or she should be welcomed warmly.

These people will not make snap decisions and their planning horizon often extends to years.

The initial task is to leave them with a deep impression that Ireland is a serious and committed candidate for locating long-term capital.

The follow-up has to include detailed discussions and planning around the logistics of any proposed investment. The prize on offer is enormous and needs to be addressed deftly and with urgency.

Joe Gill is director of corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.

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