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How West Cork has reacted to Brexit

July 6th, 2016 9:50 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

Lord Puttman.

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AS a result of last week’s Brexit vote in the UK, local businesses and UK citizens resident here have been asking how the move might affect them.

There are a number of sectors that will see a knock-on effect relatively early – tourism, which is affected by prices and currencies, is bound to be hit.

The UK is our biggest market for visitors to West Cork and the cost of getting here is likely to rise significantly for our tourists from across the water.

Independent West Cork Deputy Michael Collins said this week that, along with tourism, fishing and farming and small businesses would all be hit in West Cork.

‘In terms of tourism, the Wild Atlantic Way is a huge asset to our area, with thousands of visitors coming into West Cork each year. While these tourists come from across the world, a large percentage come from Great Britain, over 40% of visitors to Ireland come from the UK,’ he pointed out.

‘The challenges now facing us as a result of Brexit should not be understated. The value of sterling will provide a big challenge to Ireland. Our tourist bodies, our government and the industry will have to step up to the mark in terms of marketing and giving better value to the tourist,’ he said.

This week Lord Puttnam said that, ‘politically, I can’t remember a worse day in my life.’ He added that he was feeling ‘deeply, deeply ashamed’ about his country.

‘I feel that all of its worst elements have combined to create a result which I consider to be a catastrophe for my grandchildren,’ he added and described the Leave campaign as being ‘disgraceful’, because they had exploited ‘huge ignorance’ about the EU. ‘We have allowed a kind of Monty Python parody of Europe to become commonplace, and we’ve entirely failed to correct it,’ he said.

According to Aaron Mansworth, general manager of Cork International Airport and chair of the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF), it’s still too early to really see how Brexit will affect British tourists numbers coming to Ireland.

‘Nobody knows anything yet so we can only speculate as to what may happen down the line. From a tourism point of view, we’ve gone through difficult times before but we got creative in order to overcome this,’ Aaron told The Southern Star.

‘Of course in the immediate short term consumer confidence will be affected but already the numbers of visitors from Great Britain for the first six months of this year are up 16% compared to the same period last year.’

 The topic of Brexit will of course form part of the agenda at the next meeting of the Cork branch of the IHF in Cork, he said.

‘Cork has a strong corporate market too so that is important for hotels in the region. What is also good is that Tourism Ireland will still market Ireland as a whole, rather than two distinct regions,’ added Aaron.

In Clonakilty, hotelier Michael O’Neill Jnr of Fernhill House said he would have preferred to see a ‘remain’ vote but he would urge the people of West Cork to stay positive. ‘Negativity can impact demand and have a very damaging effect on business. It is times like these that it can be more important than ever to support local businesses. They support so many West Cork families,’ he said.

Fáilte Ireland declined to comment on the effect on the West Cork tourism industry and chief executive Shaun Quinn said it was ‘much too early to speculate on the long term consequences of the result for tourism in the British market’. 

Goleen native and London-based lawyer, Michael Kingston, was very involved in getting the Irish out to vote. 

‘Unfortunately the result of the referendum is a result of the abject failure of the Remain campaign to meet the dis-truths put out about migration full-on, including Irish leadership with the older Irish in England, many of whom voted to leave,’ he told The Southern Star. ‘As in the Irish election, there was a failure to get through to hardworking people and because of this a protest vote has carried the day.’

‘The reliance on the British Market cannot be underestimated for businesses across Cork, from the large companies in the pharmaceutical and IT  industries – to all the cottage industries, and of course tourism. A weak pound and continuing instability will affect this.’

 But, he added, Co Cork is resilient. ‘We need to now get every company in England that wants to be in Europe to locate in Ireland. “England’s weakness is Ireland’s opportunity” once again – 100 years on – but in a different way. This time we tried to help them all we could but they shot themselves in the foot.’

Kingston added that Europe is not perfect, in particular our failure to support our fishermen. ‘The Common Fisheries Policy has not been negotiated well by Ireland. It needs to be reviewed.’ 

Kinsale accountant Cormac Fitzgerald said that, from an Irish economic and political perspective, there is ‘much to worry about’ in relation to Brexit. 

‘Uncertainty is now the only valid term that should be applied to the world of business and economics in the immediate aftermath of the decision by the UK electorate.’

Sterling is likely to become significantly more volatile over the coming months, he predicted, with the likely bias towards a weaker UK currency. ‘For Irish companies dealing in sterling, this will obviously be very challenging and difficult to manage.’

Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune will lobby for the European Medicines Agency, currently based in London, to be relocated to Cork after Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

‘Cork is perfectly placed as a new location for the agency, as it is home to some of the largest pharma companies in the world.’

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