27 December 2018
By Bryan Smyth
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Business, Enterprise & Innovation Billy Kelleher has said that the potential loss of access to the British landbridge arising out of a hard Brexit would place many businesses in jeopardy and that Ireland’s falling competitiveness is risking jobs.
Deputy Kelleher has suggested that the Irish Government now start the process of seeking State-Aid approval from the EU to protect badly exposed sectors such as haulage and export-farming in such a circumstance.
“The Government must apply to the European Commission’s Competition Directorate for State-Aid approval for trading enterprises using port facilities to transport goods to continental Europe, including the UK landbridge in a hard no deal Brexit.
The Irish Maritime Development Office’s (IMDO) recent report – The Implications of Brexit on the Use of the Landbridge shows that over two million tons of Irish exports, valued at over €18 billion, transit to the EU continental ports via the GB landbridge.
“The IMDO has also highlighted that any introduction of customs and border controls due to Brexit will increase both journey times for exports as well as the regulatory cost burden on Irish trading businesses.
“[The recent] announcement by Irish Ferries that it would cease its Rosslare-Cherboug route next year underlines and underscores the importance of the landbridge.
“Ireland’s price profile is described as high cost and rising, with particularly acute problems in areas such as, property, business services and the cost of credit. Emerging infrastructural deficits, most notably, the shortage of housing and rising traffic congestion is damaging Ireland’s attractiveness as a location to work and invest.
“While the Government has established a Technical Working Group on State Aid, it is only at Brexit support schemes within current State Aid rules. This needs to be expanded to include new State-Aid options and enhanced flexibilities.
“Article 107 of the EU Treaties empowers the Commission to declare state aid compatible with the common market ‘to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State’.
“It was under this provision that the Commission changed state aid ceilings temporally during the financial crisis, thereby enabling Ireland to introduce grant-aided schemes to vulnerable exporting businesses in exposed sectors.
“Given that we are facing the real prospect of a disorderly exit by the UK from the EU, a hard Brexit represents a gigantic disturbance to the Irish economy and should spur the Government into seeking advanced State-Aid exemptions,” concluded Kelleher.