How Irish businesses can build a flexible response to Brexit challenges.

Ciara O'Reilly
On: 11 Apr 2019
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UK Trade, Three Ireland, Roaming

At this point in time, uncertainty is the only certainty with regard to Brexit and its effects on businesses engaged in cross-border commerce in Ireland. At the time of writing, a last minute extension avoided a “No Deal crash-out”. However, we are still no clearer as to when or how Britain will exit the EU.

Many are unprepared.

Hardly surprisingly, perhaps, few companies feel prepared for the new situation, whatever it will be.  How can they prepare for trade conditions when they don’t even know what basic rules will apply whenever it takes place? A survey by Intertrade Ireland found that fewer than 20% of Irish SMEs are prepared in any way for Brexit. When one considers that of an estimated 250,000 businesses in Ireland, 70,000 (more than a quarter) regularly trade with the UK it is clear that many companies are at risk of facing a drastic change in their circumstances with no preparation.

There is, nonetheless, no shortage of advice for companies as to what minimum preparations should be put in place. State bodies such as Enterprise Ireland have extensive online resources helping businesses to plan for the Brexit inevitability, especially with regard to such technical aspects as tariffs and taxation.  

From the point of view of business strategy, some actions that businesses can take to position themselves advantageously in a changing environment include:

Examine and simplify your business strategy.

A rigorous re-examination of all aspects of your business operations from supply chain and channel partnerships, through to existing customers and potential new prospects, encompassing an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses in one’s own resources will help to clarify what elements are likely to be subject to change and what steps must be taken to address such change.  

Model scenarios in a changing environment.

Even given that the exact business conditions that will transpire have not taken shape yet, it is essential at least to try to predict the likely consequences of potential changes. This is especially true of tariff and regulatory changes, where a number of potential scenarios can be predicted in advance and suitable modelling of the effects on one’s business can be attempted. By working through the likely scenarios, or at least as many as can be anticipated, one can estimate the likely response to each eventuality.  

Get help!  

There is plenty of help and advice available, particularly from government bodies. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation is actively encouraging all affected SMEs to register to receive advice quickly on tariff and regulatory changes as soon as a clearer picture emerges.  

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has information on financial supports for business that will become available as well as practical advice in how to deal with any new situation.

Be ready to shift position quickly.

Agility will be a key competence for companies dealing with the inevitable changes wrought by Brexit. In some instances, companies will have to consolidate to survive a dramatic downturn; in others they will have to move quickly to exploit new opportunities. Inevitably, they will also have to switch quickly from one mode to the other. The more preparation that is put in place in advance, the better.  

One less thing to worry about.

Any elements of uncertainty that can be removed will be of benefit to all businesses. Fortunately, there is one small certainty on which customers of Three’s mobile services can rely: both Three Ireland and Three UK have guaranteed that there will be no return to roaming charges for customers on either side of the border in Ireland, regardless of when and under what terms Brexit takes place. Three is the first mobile operator to date to make public such a commitment.  

Three customers carrying out exhaustive “What if?” analyses on a number of variables that may change drastically, depending on what business and tariff environment will pertain after Brexit, will at least be spared any return to the uncertainty of the “Bill Shock” that often attended a business trip across the border and caused international roaming charges to apply. These were abolished by EU directive which came into effect on June 15th 2017. For Three customers, they will remain an unlamented item of the past.  

The more uncertainty that can be removed from companies’ business activities, the more stable and secure their foundation to respond quickly to rapidly changing opportunities and threats that will be an inevitable consequence of the Brexit process. Once we find out exactly what shape it will take!  

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