Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Challenges to Ireland's Competitiveness: Discussion

Mr. Oliver Gilvarry:

The point we were making in the challenge there is that we put a box in the first chapter outlining the changes in trade flows. Some of the numbers there show a continuing decline in UK imports over a number of years. There is a question about whether that has been exacerbated by Brexit or is basically people stockpiling. We are still seeing trade flows coming through, but the trend for more than a decade has seen a smaller percentage of imports going through and the UK becoming a smaller proportion of our exports. The issue we were trying to convey on this is similar tastes. The example of cheddar cheese is always used. Ireland, the UK and the US are jurisdictions where one sees cheddar cheeses, but not so much in Europe. There are very similar tastes and a shared language.

The ability to replicate a large market of 60 million people by switching into a European market where there are different languages and different tastes across those jurisdictions is not easy. Our point in the challenge is that there has to be a greater focus on this from the enterprise agencies to see how to support businesses going into, for example, the Austrian or the Belgian markets, which will be quite different in how to support them. The point we were trying to make is that it is not easy to replicate and say we are not going to export to the UK anymore but will export to the European Union. The European Union is made up of a number of different jurisdictions that have different cultures, languages and tastes, so it is not as easy to replicate and that has to be considered as we help our business to transition away from the UK market.