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Bosses warn 7,500 jobs in Republic at risk unless government acts

By Ed Carty

Published 02/08/2016

Ibec's director of policy Fergal O'Brien
Ibec's director of policy Fergal O'Brien

Some 7,500 jobs are at risk in the Republic unless the Irish government takes decisive and immediate action on the fallout from Brexit, business leaders have warned.

Ibec claims €700m (£590m) worth of food exports face being wiped out unless urgent action is taken to address the pressure from the fall in the value of sterling.

It said a survey of 450 businesses found the impact of the drop was the biggest concern for half of them.

And, in economic analysis issued alongside the report, it estimated that, if sterling weakened closer to the 90p mark, the Republic of Ireland's agri-food sector would be hit hardest with the thousands of job losses and hundreds of millions wiped off orders.

Ibec warned the currency crisis was already on a par with 1992 and that it could get much worse.

It called for salary costs, including minimum wage levels, to be kept competitive.

In a stark assessment, director of policy Fergal O'Brien said: "The Brexit strain is manifest and intense.

"Without urgent action to address competitive pressures, hundreds of millions of euro worth of exports and thousands of Irish jobs will be lost.

"Individual businesses have been slow to talk publicly, but the feedback from members is clear and unambiguous.

"Businesses and jobs are already under threat.

"This is now a full-blown currency crisis.

"For exporters, the speed of sterling's decline is on a par with the 1992 currency crisis. Irish exporters to the UK are already 15% less competitive and things could get much worse. The problem demands urgent government attention."

Ibec's survey found the top three challenges facing businesses were exchange rate volatility, weaker investor confidence and competitiveness against the UK.

One third of businesses warned cheaper UK imports were the biggest risk and only one in ten of businesses have Brexit contingency plans already in place.

Ibec said its members believed the most important policy for government to act on was a renewed focus on competitiveness.

Mr O'Brien added: "An urgent and meaningful government response is needed to address the immediate currency crisis and longer-term competitiveness challenge that Brexit poses.

"The UK will be more aggressive in its tax and investment policy once outside the EU. Ireland needs to match and exceed its offering."

Ibec called for an immediate Brexit response package with funds set up to stabilise enterprise and support employment in the worst-affected businesses.

It also urged the Irish government to keep energy and insurance costs down and for the next budget to be 'Brexit-proofed' to address tax competitiveness challenges against the UK.

Belfast Telegraph

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