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Plan, Act and Engage for a Better Brexit

In this month's blog, Aidan Gough Director of Strategy & Policy outlines the importance of helping SMEs to be Brexit ready.

He says "InterTradeIreland’s message is simple, while we recognise the pressures facing small business owners dealing with the here and now, there is, nevertheless, a window of opportunity now that must be grasped to prepare for the challenges and indeed the opportunities that will be presented by a new cross-border trading relationship that is set to emerge over the next few years.

In the space of one month 177,000 lorries, 205,000 vans and over 1.8m cars will cross the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. In one day it is estimated that 30,000 people make the cross-border commute to work. These lorries, vans, cars and people are involved in a trade in goods and services that now totals close to €6bn a year, growing at an average annual rate over the past twenty years at over 4 per cent.

This trade across the border is disproportionately important for small business. The reality of this ‘frictionless’ land-border for many small businesses is that the all-island market is effectively their local market despite it being cross-border, a notion that is unfamiliar to many small businesses in Great Britain.

Through its quarterly All-Island Business Monitor, InterTradeIreland has been monitoring the response from the business community across the island to the UK’s decision to leave the EU since it was taken on June 23rd last year.

One of the most alarming pieces of information from this survey is that when asked about making plans to deal with the post-Brexit world, 98% continue to say they have none in place.

The lack of planning is driven by two key issues, first an understandable focus on ‘the now’. In what is already an intensely competitive market environment for small businesses across the island of Ireland, a fact borne out by respondents to InterTradeIreland’s All-Island Business Monitor who are facing the challenges of rising costs of energy, supply costs and overheads, new competition and difficulties recruiting appropriate skills, finding the time and resources to plan for even potentially significant structural changes is a perennial problem.

The second issue is the degree of uncertainty that abounds due to a perceived deficit in reliable information, that complicates and constrains the scenario building process.

Over the past 6 months InterTradeIreland has been out and about speaking at events on both sides of the border, encouraging businesses to prepare for a new cross-border trading relationship while listening to their concerns. This engagement, backed up with information received in our all-island Business Monitor and several in depth case studies has helped us develop and launch a new Brexit Advisory Service for potential and current cross-border traders.

The service which includes direct access to specialist technical advice in areas such as tariff and non-tariff barriers, rules of origin, certification, staffing, exchange management and logistics through Brexit Readiness Vouchers to the value of €1000, specific guidance on tariffs at detailed product level, and access to our latest research, is built on the mantra of encouraging businesses to PLAN, ACT and ENGAGE. Find out more here.

InterTradeIreland’s message is simple while we recognise the pressures facing small business owners dealing with the here and now, there is, nevertheless, a window of opportunity now that must be grasped to prepare for the challenges and indeed the opportunities that will be presented by a new cross-border trading relationship that is set to emerge over the next few years.

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