Irish and UK retailers highlight Brexit challenges

Monday, 26 June 2017
Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the sector, today joined forces with the British Retail Consortium and the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium to explore the implications for the sector arising from Brexit. They will meet in Dublin with a number of Government Departments, consumer advocates and individual retailers to seek solutions to mitigate the negative impacts on retailers and consumers alike. 

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Thomas Burke, Director of Retail Ireland stated: “The retail sector in Ireland faces significant challenges arising from the decision of the UK to leave the European Union, due to the close supply chains between the two economies and the numerous high street retail brands operating across both markets. While the recent UK general election opens the door for fresh debate on what Brexit may look like, one thing is clear; Brexit uncertainty is already negatively impacting consumer spend and business competitiveness, and is increasing exchange rate volatility. It will continue to be a major risk factor for Irish retailers in the coming years.”

The Irish and UK retail representative bodies jointly called on the Irish and UK Governments to protect consumers and ensure that Brexit negotiations yield results for the industry that:

-Safeguard employment and retail growth; 
-Minimise cost pressures and regulatory burdens; 
-Maintain fair consumer prices and cost competitiveness;
-Minimise supply chain disruption, allowing for seamless movement of products and people between the two jurisdictions;
-Avoid any new tariffs; 
-Support the all-island retail market, ensuring retailers can continue to operate on an all-island basis.

"More than 280,000 jobs in the Republic of Ireland and approximately 80,000 jobs in Northern Ireland are dependent on the retail sector. It is vital that these jobs are protected, whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations may be. Today’s meeting presents us with a wonderful opportunity to assess the risks and challenges with our counterparts from the UK and Northern Ireland as well as with key domestic stakeholders. With all current indications pointing to a hard Brexit, retailers are increasingly anxious about how this will impact on trade and their consumers. They are also in the early stages of reviewing supply chains to ensure that disruption and costs are minimised post Brexit. It is crucial that all parties to the negotiations are cognisant of the impact Brexit will have on retailers, consumers and the domestic economy as a whole."

Ray Symons, Head of EU & International Affairs at the British Retail Consortium (BRC), stated: "The BRC is delighted to be involved with this event. Brexit presents a number of challenges to trade that traverses borders and these challenges are particularly acute for UK-Irish supply chains. We are committed to working with our partners to address these challenges in a spirit of co-operation and collaboration."

Aodhan Connolly, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium stated: "Brexit will potentially have a greater effect in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK and a greater effect on the retail industry and consumers than in any other part of the UK. Many Northern Ireland Retail Consortium members have operations in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and even those who don’t are often reliant on goods, services and employees that traverse the border. The retail industry across north and south of the border has a hugely symbiotic relationship and we will continue to work closely with our colleagues in Retail Ireland for a Brexit that delivers for our industry and our consumers."

Other areas of joint focus for the Irish, Northern Irish and UK retail representative bodies include:

-Weaker consumer sentiment: Driven by uncertainty around the potential fallout from the decision of the UK to leave the European Union. 
-Increased exchange rate volatility: Implications for import prices and consumer prices resulting from currency fluctuations. 
-Loss of competitiveness: Shifting exchange rates and market uncertainty has the potential to deter investment and restrict future growth. 
-Reintroduction of customs controls: Potential new EU customs controls and duties at Irish & UK ports which could disrupt product supply and add cost to the supply chain and to ultimately to consumers. 
-Higher logistics costs: Added complications and costs to the supply chain due to product originating in or transiting through non-EU territory. 
-Shift away from an all-island economy: Increased costs associated with regulatory divergence between jurisdictions and an inability to operate on an all-island basis from a product and people perspective.