Ireland and Cork have great short-term opportunities following the fallout from Brexit — but have no doubt that the UK will fight back aggressively, especially for foreign direct investment.
That was one of the key messages from the Cork Chamber Brexit Breakfast yesterday, as guest speakers told of both the great opportunities to be exploited as well as the challenges.
Minister for European Affairs Dara Murphy was joined by Barry Heavey of IDA Ireland and chairman of Enterprise Ireland Terence O’Rourke at the event, held in association with the Irish Examiner.
Mr Heavey said the IDA was excited by the opportunities that Brexit brought, especially in the areas of financial services and technology. However, he warned of difficult challenges for Ireland, not least the fact the UK would come back strongly and compete even harder for the investments.
Mr O’Rourke said the UK’s current position was akin to letting a golf membership lapse but complaining about not getting the best tee times. He said those who led the Leave campaign had clearly not anticipated victory and had no idea what was coming.
“It was a very easy thing to do to say we are going to get out, but the reality of leaving is horrendous,” he added.
Mr Heavey said it was particularly encouraging that already 35 companies involved in financial services were looking to relocate to Ireland. He said “We are actively engaged with them and poised to aggressively pursue it.”
Mr Murphy said that while Ireland found itself in difficult circumstances and faced an unprecedented challenge, it gave an opportunity for Irish businesses to diversify and expand their expertise.
He said: “We have room for businesses to move into other markets and we can be even more robust. This Brexit issue is not being discussed nearly as much in other European cities, I am finding. We have something in Ireland to sell and we are very good sellers. There is potential for trade with other European countries.”
There was a word of warning about the lack of commercial office space in Cork for the opportunities that might come Ireland’s way following Brexit.
Mr Heavey said that Cork was lagging behind Dublin for prime office space. The shortage was hampering the selling of Cork to potential investor companies in the short term.
It had the potential to be an unwanted bottleneck in Cork’s future development, he said.
However Mr Murphy said that there was plenty of land available in Cork to develop, citing the docklands as one of the best areas for commercial growth.
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