Industry across every sector of the country has been affected in some way or other by Brexit. But Ireland is still very much a part of the Eurozone and Anne Lanigan, Regional Director of the Eurozone for Enterprise Ireland, says it is vital that businesses in this country realise how valuable the European market is.
To validate this, Enterprise Ireland and the IIEA (Institute of International and European Affairs) have come together to deliver a series of three events entitled ‘Europe is our Future’, aiming to change how Irish business views the EU.
“The EU represents the biggest free trading area in the world, giving Ireland full access to this large marketplace and the three events, the first of which took on May 28th – with the second and third coming in July and September – aim to draw attention to this,” she says.
Untapped trade opportunities
“The webinars will highlight the unique trade opportunities for Irish business in Europe, particularly in relation to the single market and the single currency. They will also look at the untapped opportunities for Irish owned businesses in the EU and the strong reputation which Ireland, and indeed, Irish products and services, enjoy in Europe.
“It will also help to increase Irish business’ understanding of the EU and position the Eurozone as an extension of Ireland’s domestic market as well as highlighting the supports available to Enterprise Ireland clients.”
The single market was designed to enable frictionless trade between member states with no customs, tariffs or other barriers to trade and regulatory alignment across the region. With a population of over 440 million people this is the biggest free trading area in the world. And Lanigan says, this makes it a very big extension to our domestic market.
“There are so many benefits to trading in a single currency as it introduces transparency and removes costs related to foreign exchange and the associated risks,” she says. “And Ireland’s adoption of the Euro has given Irish business access to a huge single currency market and an economy with a combined GDP of $13tr.
“Of course, Europe is also a close neighbour and proximity has been proven to increase trade opportunities, while the increased direct maritime links to France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal in recent months have brought us even closer.”
This closeness has never been more important as when Brexit finally happened in December, it highlighted the challenges which had arisen regarding trading with the UK in their new status outside the single market.
But, while Irish firms will continue to do business with the UK, there is no doubt that the benefits of the single market now make the EU very attractive, including the benefits of ongoing regulatory alignment. And Brexit or no Brexit, the Eurozone offers the cost and transparency benefits of a single currency as well as access to a very large market.
Exports to the Eurozone
“However, while the multinational sector in Ireland has reaped the benefits of the single market, Irish owned businesses have yet to take full advantage of what is the biggest free trading area in the world,” says Lanigan. “According to 2019 data, Enterprise Ireland client exports to the Eurozone (2019: €5.6bn) were equal to just 70% of the value of those to the UK (2019: €7.9bn). This is despite the fact that the Eurozone population and Eurozone GDP is 5 times that of the UK – this is an untapped and immediate opportunity. So, the Eurozone markets are now a key element of Enterprise Ireland’s strategy and in fact since the launch of our Eurozone strategy in 2017, exports to the Eurozone have increased by over 33% and growth in Enterprise Ireland client exports increased by 15% in 2019 alone. And exports to the Eurozone are steadily increasing as a percentage of over exports – in 2019 this was 22%, up from 20% in 2017.”
With this in mind, the Eurozone expert says Enterprise Ireland is uniquely positioned and financed to help Irish companies to both enter and scale in Eurozone markets by offering one-to-one support, through its world class market research centre, financial support and promotion of innovative Irish produce and services.
Enter the Eurozone
There is also a programme of events to introduce European buyers to the innovative capabilities of Irish companies in sectors such as internationally traded services, high-tech construction, engineering, ICT and life sciences. And the four-month Enterprise Ireland Enter the Eurozone training programme, now in its 3rd iteration, brings a group of 25 CEOs and their sales and marketing teams through the necessary steps in successfully entering a Eurozone market.
“In addition, the IIEA, which is Ireland’s leading international affairs think tank, aims to provide a forum for all those interested in EU and International Affairs to engage in debate and discussion, and to evaluate and share policy options,” adds Lanigan. “They celebrate their 30th anniversary this year and there is also a benefit for Irish companies to become members of the IIEA, so they can stay abreast of European affairs which may impact or present opportunities for their business in addition to networking with senior figures in business and government. “So, all in all, the future for Irish companies looking to do business in the Eurozone, is looking bright.”