The “car crash” of Brexit is the “most scary economic prospect of our lifetime” but people, including Ireland’s political leadership, still do not realise just how serious it is, the founder of Irish regional airline CityJet has said.
Pat Byrne, who was speaking at a business conference in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork, said: “It almost seems that the Brexit car crash must be allowed to happen before the people of the UK see the folly of it.”
His comments at the inaugural Harmonia Corporate Advisors conference were echoed by UCC economics lecturer Declan Jordan, who agreed with Mr Byrne’s description.
“There is no appetite in the UK for a second referendum so that scenario is unlikely. I agree we may have to have that car crash to see how bad Brexit really is,” Mr Jordan said.
The economist said the most dominant strategy for Ireland and Irish business was to expect the worst outcome.
He criticised UK political leaders who were advocating the position that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, saying such political posturing was unthinkably bad for the UK.
Going behind a World Trade Organisation (WTO) tariff wall would be the result of a “no deal” scenario, he said.
Anything less than a hard Brexit at this point would be a bonus for Ireland, said Mr Jordan.
Mr Byrne said that with Brexit happening, Ireland was “going to be very lonely”, saying he expected challenges to the 12.5% corporation tax rate and labour laws by fellow EU members in the coming years.
“It is after seeing how it works in Europe that you realise how sensible the trade union movement in Ireland really is.
“In the EU, there are some tremendously challenging places to do business, with the employer vilified in many cases,” he said.
CityJet revamped itself to become a wet leasing airline — where an aircraft and crew owned by one airline is leased to another airline to complete certain routes — and Mr Byrne said that the new model of business had taken the firm to Russia for aircraft. He said that Irish businesses would have plenty to offer their Russian counterparts as they sought new markets after Brexit.
“Once you learn that sometimes you have to roar at the Russian bear to get through to them, they are very open.
“They are masterful engineers but they do not have processing, logistics and other elements we take for granted. There is a lot of business to be done between the two countries,” Mr Byrne said.