Beef, dairy, food industries to take brunt of Brexit

Brexit will have negative consequences for Ireland in all scenarios, with the beef, dairy, and food processing industries the hardest hit.

It will also impact the pharma-chemical industry, trade, wages and services, costing the economy up to €18bn.

The Government-commissioned research worked through four long-term scenarios up to 2030, where the worst outcome would see World Trade Organisation tariffs slapped on traded goods.

While the Copenhagen Economists dossier suggests ways to mitigate against and prepare for Brexit, including upskilling and new trade deals, it concludes up to 20,000 jobs could ultimately be lost.

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys, who commissioned the report, said: “The study is there to guide us and help us to prevent the worst from happening. We commissioned it so that we can quantify the potential impacts of different Brexit scenarios, and get hard facts on what sectors will be most impacted by those different scenarios.”

Among the main findings, the 75-page report concludes:

  • Five sectors most affected: agri-food, pharma chemicals, electric machinery, retail, and air transport;
  • The difference between the best and worst Brexit scenarios is €11bn in economic growth;
  • Brexit will impact Irish wages negatively for all groups, and reducing lower-skilled wages by up to 8.7%;
  • Even without divergence between the EU and Britain, Irish exports still face extra trade costs between 4% and 8%;
  • Agri-food production may drop by 20%, electric machinery by 10%, and pharma-chemicals by 5%.

The four long-term Brexit outcomes examined included a European Eonomic Area (similar to Norway with existing trade costs), a new customs union deal, a free trade agreement, or the worst scenario which would see punitive WTO rules governing trade.

Crucially, the report says Brexit will have “negative impacts on the Irish economy in all scenarios”, including on Irish trade with adverse knock-on effects on production and GDP.

Furthermore, even if talks go relatively smoothly, it is not unreasonable to expect a minimum of five years for Britain, Brussels, and EU members to agree new deals, the report adds.

It is not all doom and gloom, however, and the report, discussed by Cabinet yesterday, adds that “Brexit will not end economic growth in Ireland”.

The research notes the projected economic losses are before any measures to counter Brexit. Ireland will also “still be more prosperous” in 2030 than now, even with WTO restrictions.

Ms Humphreys said: “It is important to remember that the analysis is undertaken on the basis of a ‘no policy’ response. The study does not predict a contraction in our economy but rather a lower growth rate than would be otherwise expected over the long term.”

The report identified the best- and worst-case outcomes. An EEA scenario would be least damaging gradually reducing GDP growth by 2.8% by 2030. But a WTO scenario would reduce GDP growth by 7% by 2030, amounting to €18bn.

Fianna Fáil last night said they were not surprised by the report. Brexit spokesman Stephen Donnelly said: “This report should be a wake-up call to each and every government minister and department.”

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