As Limerick prepares for the fallout of Brexit following the UKs’ decision to leave the European Union, many local businesses are considering the implications.
A report published by the ERSI and the Department of Finance has found that the Irish economy is set to reduce by 4 percent, with unemployment due to rise 1.9 percent.
However owner and founder of water management consultancy firm ECOS, Mark McConnell, believes positives can be taken from Brexit, despite its uncertainty.
“I’m always a kind of glass half full person, and I see a big opportunity.” He said.
“Our clients are seeing can they move their operations to Ireland, everything from manufacturing firms to the service industry.”
Limerick in particular can be seen as a haven for further FDI as it has more space for development than more congested cities like Dublin or Cork.
Despite this, Mr. McConnell, who also sits on the Environmental Strategic Policy Committee at Limerick City and County Council, has cited other issues that may deter UK companies setting up in Limerick.
“We have limitations here, our lack of schools and lack of housing. Housing has become an impediment for Limerick as a whole and FDI needs places to put their people, employees have less worth if they have to commute an hour and a half to work.”
The Hunt Café manager, Helen O’Donnell, believes the unpredictability of Brexit is what scares local businesses most, with retail and fashion the most vulnerable of industries.
“Brexit will affect fashion and bigger retailers; although a lot of people have stock so it’ll be next year before we see any major price hikes in British products, but it will be a major opportunity to source locally.” She said.
It was recently announced that British retailer NEXT, who have stores located on Childers Road and in the Crescent Shopping Centre, are reducing the price of all stock in the Republic of Ireland by 10 percent in order to reduce price discrepancies following the crash of the sterling.
Although this will benefit consumers before Christmas, it will not be good for Limerick businesses in the long run, however this may be considered a temporary measure.
When asked about the likelihood of Ireland following the UK out of the EU, Ms. O’Donnell said it would be an unlikely event, but there is still room for improvement regarding Ireland’s’ role in the union.
“We have benefitted massively from Europe, we have contributed massively too and the advantages for Limerick far outweigh the disadvantages.” She said.
“It’s a huge Europe, in my opinion perhaps too big and we are most definitely punching below our weight.”
Mr. McConnell also believes a similar exit is unlikely unless something drastic was to occur in Ireland.
“I can’t see us leaving the EU unless there is a very hard Brexit that ruins Ireland, or if our FDI (policies) become under threat, we need to flex our muscles a lot more as a country”.