Brexit becomes more of a spectator sport
Anyone remember back to when Brexit seemed like a big deal? Seems strange to think of it now. At least on this side of the Irish Sea.
Back in January I noted that Ireland, like its partners in Europe, was doing a decent job of moving on while the UK was facing a shambles in areas like fishing, logistics, customs charges and music. If anything, things have got worse for the UK with shortages of food, labour, HGV drivers, the prospect of higher prices and unpicked fruit and vegetables rotting in the fields.
While every effort is being made not to mention the ‘B word’ in the UK by the government and the official opposition, business and other communities are becoming more vocal in assigning at least some of the blame to Brexit for the circumstances the UK faces.
The slow motion disaster reached its apogee this week – at least until the next one – with the public announcement from US President Joe Biden that the US-UK trade deal, which had been held up as the coveted prize for leaving the EU, was very unlikely to occur for a number of years.
Not that it matters much to Ireland. Or at least it wouldn’t except for the artificial furore being hyped up by the DUP and others over the Northern Ireland Protocol which, it bears repeating, they heartily endorsed as part of the “oven ready” withdrawal agreement signed with the EU at the beginning of 2020.
“Since January, a few things have changed,” says Michael Conway, director of indigenous Irish distributor Renaissance. “One, the Brexit landscape is clearer and secondly, there is a shortage of hardware mainly due to chip and logistical supply chain issues. These chip and supply chain issues are global and have exacerbated the challenges posed by Brexit.”
While there was an interruption to the supply chain because of Brexit, the shift to supply hardware via The Netherlands “has worked well and has become very streamlined, so the Brexit impact has been minimised. The Netherlands is the country of choice for shipping into Ireland and this works well”.
Conway adds that “cutting the UK out of the loop has been quite transparent to be honest”. That’s probably just as well because “receiving any shipments of anything out of the UK is a nightmare and to be avoided”.
Allied with Covid, Brexit has dropped Ireland off the list of sales trip locations for UK sales people. He believes that “the pre-Brexit and pre-Covid level of activity will take some years to return, if ever”. The good news for companies like Renaissance is that this means local representation is more important than ever and it creates opportunities for indigenous Irish distribution.
Asked whether there had been any ramifications for UK&Ireland distribution contracts as a result of Brexit, he replies: “Some contracts have been amended but, in reality, the UK contracts that cover Ireland have become pretty useless for many companies. It has forced them to look at Irish distribution to get their brands and technologies to the Irish market.”
Judging by Conway’s comments, even with Covid added to the mix, there are some positives for local distributors from Brexit. Life goes on but, despite the scare stories predicting significant collateral damage to Ireland from Brexit, we’re finding out that it doesn’t have to pass you by.