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Business leaders view Ireland as a means to access European market, conference hears

about 13 hours ago
Updated: about 7 hours ago

Mark Hilliard

A survey of 200 senior UK business leaders found 59 per cent have begun contingency planning ahead of Brexit. Photograph: iStock




Three-quarters of UK-based companies have said they are considering Ireland as an alternative European “gateway” as the UK prepares to exit the union.

A survey of 200 senior business leaders in the financial services, asset management and professional services sectors also found that 59 per cent have begun contingency planning ahead of the UK withdrawal.

One of the key concerns for post-Brexit business dealings is the UK’s loss of “passporting” rights allowing firms ease of access to the European market, something Ireland as a near neighbour can offer with relatively little disturbance to operations.

The second annual William Fry Investing in Ireland conference in London on Wednesday was told of the strengths Ireland has to offer as an alternative base – increasing office stock, an experienced workforce in financial services and a dependable regulatory regime.

“Ireland has many things to offer the financial services industry such as our market access, our educated workforce, and the increasing depth and sophistication of our indigenous financial services sector,” the Irish Ambassador to the UK, Daniel Mulhall, told the event.

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“This capability, global offering and growing reputation as a hub for specialist international financial services helps to promote Ireland as a destination and location for international financial services.”

However, while Ireland is clear runner, it is not the only viable alternative under consideration – business leaders polled during the conference name-checked Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands as alternative locations vying for a post-Brexit windfall.


Ireland’s favourable tax regime, as well as its English-speaking workforce and broad cultural similarities to those of the UK and US, were listed as the most attractive aspects of a potential relocation here.

On the flipside, business leaders identified differing levels of regulatory expertise and the small local market size as potential stumbling blocks.

Irish authorities are keen to attract attention. Speaking at the conference, Martin Shanahan, chief executive of IDA Ireland, outlined how it would market the country as a business destination.


“Ireland’s stability, the certainty on EU membership and therefore access to the European market, coupled with the strong value proposition that Ireland already offers will be important in the period ahead,” he said.

“Access to talent, both Irish and European, a competitive, transparent and consistent taxation regime and the ease of doing business” are also important considerations, he said.

Eavan Saunders, partner at William Fry said Ireland already enjoyed a strong reputation as a gateway to Europe, more recently for technology companies.

“As our poll shows,” she said, “Ireland is a key jurisdiction that is appealing to many companies undertaking post-Brexit contingency planning.

“But there are also concerns around our capacity to continue to provide quality office space in the right locations, lack of an indigenous customer base for global financial services businesses and concerns on the level of personal tax, availability of housing and school places in comparison to other locations also offering EU access.”