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Brexit set to become ‘major concern’ for Clare businesses

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Clare businesses have been warned that Brexit is set to become “a major concern”.

Negotiations on Brexit continue with the European Union setting the end of October as its deadline for a deal however it is believed that talks will continue into November. Speaking this week, European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic said both parties must ensure ratification for an agreed deal by January 1st, no-deal territory is on the horizon if this does not occur.

“Brexit is coming to the forefront and it is a major concern,” Head of Enterprise with Clare LEO, Padraic McElwee stated. Addressing a meeting of Clare County Council’s Economic Development SPC, he listed the uncertainty, difficulty to plan ahead, supply chain, UK land bridge, increased costs, customs and tariff complexity, the impact of VAT, currency fluctuations and the temporary assignment of EU staff to work in the UK as the main local concerns.

He was of the view that no deal would be agreed by the time Brexit arrived “which will have huge ramifications”. McElwee stressed the need for Clare businesses to engage in training and workshops on the subject, “a lot of businesses will suffer with paperwork involved for exporting and importing to UK”. He admitted that the impact of assigning staff to work in the UK was not expected but has become a major issue.

Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) cautioned that the VAT would place “a huge burden on business especially anybody who is importing anything from Europe or the UK”.

Every year 150,000 truck crossings carry three million tonnes of freight to and from the rest of the single market across the UK land bridge from Ireland. British freight will, from 1 January, be third country freight, meaning it will be subject to customs and regulatory controls at European ports. Neither those ports, nor British ports are geared towards differentiating British and Irish freight. Ireland will have to count on the goodwill of both London and member states to ensure that the free flow of Irish goods to the continent remains free-flowing.

A report by the Irish Maritime Development Office found that the land bridge remains the quickest way to get some Irish freight to and from the continent each year, with journey times of less than 20 hours, compared to 40 hours for a direct sea route on roll-on, roll-off ferries, and 60 hours for load-on, load-off ferries.

Clonlara representative, Cllr Michael Begley (IND) believed ways needed to be identified to avoid the UK land bridge altogether. “Surely there is significant traffic solely for the European market from Ireland that would justify a direct service,” he commented.

Representations were made earlier this month by Eugene Drennan of Spa Transport to establish the link referenced by Cllr Begley, the meeting was informed. “One or two private operators are looking at establishing a direct link to France, it is a significant capital investment, the discussions are taking place at a higher level,” McElwee replied.

Praise for the work of Clare LEO in attempting to prepare businesses for a seismic change was voiced by Cllr PJ Kelly (FF). “The only prominent thing we have today is change, it takes more than an ordinary genius to forecast what will happen into the future. The predominant today is not why not but why, there is a controlling element out there. I commend Padraic for going beyond the normal line and anticipating what might happen”.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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