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All EU Need is Love: Musical Musings on Brexit

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“We all live in a yellow submarine

Yellow submarine, yellow submarine”

– Ringo Starr (Brexit enthusiast), Yellow Submarine

There’s a popular saying in the world of music criticism that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture”, meaning it is futile and a pointless exercise. How can you adequately critique the sounds on Let It Be, or Thriller, or The Joshua Tree using words? At times, writing about Brexit in 2017 feels as futile, or worse still – after all, Let it Be is and always will be Let It Be, but Brexit is a more fluid thing. Ideas about where Brexit will eventually leave the UK, Ireland, and the rest of the EU seem to change weekly, if not daily. How many newspaper pages have been printed on the subject, only for negotiating positions to change before the ink has dried? How many kilobytes of server space apportioned for running commentary, only for a new narrative to emerge the next day?

With Brexit, there are few certainties. And having few certainties in business is a recipe for disaster. But there are a number of things Irish companies need to consider in order to mitigate any potential fallout from Brexit. One certainty is there will be fallout.

“Should five percent appear too small

Be thankful I don’t take it all”

– George Harrison, Taxman

There will be a significant drop in the value of Sterling; the question is not if but when. When David Cameron announced his resignation as Prime Minister the day after the historic vote, the pound lost 5.3% of its value against the Euro. At the time of writing, the current consensus is that Theresa May will hang on as caretaker leader until after Brexit, but with her cabinet beset by crisis after crisis, this could quickly change. Some experts have predicted that the pound could hit parity with the euro by early 2018 – an unthinkable prospect pre-Brexit. In the short term, this could be good news for companies that import a lot from the UK, but otherwise the outlook for Ireland is gloomy. Post Brexit, if Britain does not stay in the EU customs union and regresses to trading using less favourable World Trade Organisation tariffs, swathes of Irish business will be hit hard, with the food sector in particular suffering. Around 40% or Irish food exports go to the UK, and experts studying the WTO outcome have predicted there could be “falls of 68% for the dairy trade, eggs and honey sector”. Trade in the fashion industry between the EU to the UK could also fall as much as 99%!

 “Imagine there’s no countries

It isn’t hard to do”

-John Lennon, Imagine

Before the UK and the EU begin to negotiate on trade, they must first solve how they are going to deal with sharing a 500km land border. Almost a year and a half on from Brexit, little progress has been made on Northern Ireland. The EU has accused the UK of magical thinking on the issue. Leo Varadkar has issued a warning that he will not agree to progressing to trade negotiations until the UK give a formal written guarantee that there will be no hard border. The easiest way to avoid erecting checkpoints, geotagging freight and creating a ton of paperwork would be for the UK to keep Northern Ireland within the customs union, even in the event that the rest of the UK are not. The DUP, who are currently propping up May’s government, are opposed to this idea however (as is May herself, but her stance could well change; you can find less U-turns on a Top Gear DVD).

The free movement of people is thankfully less of a headache for Ireland than the rest of the EU. While citizens of other nations may fret about the loss of their rights to easily settle in the UK, the Common Travel Area allows Irish and British citizens to travel freely within each other’s nations. This agreement predates EU freedom of movement, and there are no plans to change this because of Brexit. It’s highly unlikely that an Irish citizen would ever need a visa or work permit to take up employment in Britain, and vice versa. If Brexit is as damaging to the British economy as many predict, we could see an influx of disgruntled British personnel, and EU workers who would once have moved to our neighbours may decide to settle here instead too. This could prove a boon for recruitment. Many companies (especially within the finance sector) are creating contingency plans to leave the UK, with Dublin being an attractive option for redirecting staff and investment.

 “Help! I need somebody

Help! Not just anybody”

– Lennon & McCartney, Help

Whatever the future holds, if you need help navigating your business through this challenging time, be it via change management, skills training, or employment law compliance, call Insight HR on 056 770 1060 or email mcullen@insighthr.ie for expert advice. Don’t just Let it Be.

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