Irish businesses, particularly those with a vested interest in the British market, were studying every little development out of both London and Brussels last week, as at first it seemed we were closer to a degree certainty and a draft Brexit deal, before in-fighting within the Conservative Party promptly extinguished any such hopes. So, where does that leave Irish companies planning for the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union?
Financial services firm PwC is continually advising its clients on Brexit and its clear message to Irish businesses is to plan on the basis of a no-deal. Feargal O'Rourke, Managing Partner with PwC Ireland, said that any business which is serious about its long-term planning up to now has planned for a no-deal Brexit basis. "There is no business saying 'it will be all right on the night' and let us just keep going the way we are," he added.
Whether it is financial services and the offices that have just moved here or whether it is Irish companies trading with the UK and the rest of Europe, Mr O'Rourke said that at this stage virtually all of them have done some planning on the basis that a deal will not materialise. "It is tantalisingly close to a positive deal but no business I know is planning on the basis that it will be all right on the day," he added.
According to Feargal O'Rourke, PwC is walking companies through every part of their business and how the business is affected by the impact of trading with the UK. In some cases, the focus is on the company's sales to the UK, its supplies from the UK and or the movement of their people in and out of the UK - both Irish nationals and non-nationals.
In its assessment of last week's draft withdrawal agreement, PwC identified what it said was a lot of potential positives for business. Mr O'Rourke said that the draft deal offers the opportunity to delay the increased costs associated with Brexit until at least until the end of 2020, with most pencilling in further delays beyond that. At one level the prize at the end of this process could mean no change in our trading relationship with the UK, he stated. He also added that after talking to a number of business leaders, the view was that the draft deal was great for Northern Ireland with people in the North feeling that they will be part of the UK and part of Europe.
Mr O'Rourke said it was inconceivable that a hard border - for people or business - could go back up again and at least last week's draft agreement - while not ideal - is being fully endorsed by PwC from an Irish business perspective.
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