The chief executive of employers group Ibec has said he thinks there will be a skeleton trade deal agreed between the UK and EU.
But Danny McCoy said that while we can obsess about a trade deal, the relationship between Britain and Ireland is not about just the trade of goods.
“It is about services, it is about capacity to go and have your qualifications recognised,” he said.
“It it also about citizenship, it is also about justice, it is about a whole host of things that impact on people’s workplace, their living standards, their sense of being and belonging,” he told The Business Show – Rebooting Ireland Virtual Summit.
“So there’s an awful lot of ‘hanging chads’ so to speak that haven’t even got to do with business directly but impacts on people’s whole attitudes about where they are going to set up their life, where they are going to work and so on,” Danny McCoy said.
“So it is going to be really complicated,” he warned.
Speaking during the same event, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said she also still believes a deal will be reached on Brexit.
“I think it may be a skinny one,” she said.
“But I think that there is real understanding now on both sides amongst the negotiators about how important this is for business, how important this is for jobs. And the idea that these talks will collapse in failure, I think there will be some grown up politics that rescues us from that,” she stated.
She said that while some argue the difference between a skinny deal and no-deal is not that great, she disagrees as the ability to have a deal and move on from that in a spirit of collaboration between the two countries is so fundamentally different from a collapse.
Ms Fairbairn acknowledged that October 15 is a very important date as far as Brexit is concerned.
“It is a key [European] Council meeting and also we know that businesses need time to prepare….and frankly even that is cutting it fine,” she said.
“We are into the eleventh hour on Brexit and quite a lot of businesses feel like it is Groundhog Day again and it is really challenging, she added.
“The thing that has changed since the previous no-deal cliff edge is obviously the pandemic. We have businesses, I’ve spoke to so many, whose cash reserves have been exhausted, they had built them up before the previous Brexit cliff edge, they are gone,” she claimed.
“Their stockpiles, buffer stocks for order delays, they are gone. So I think this date is really significant.”
Mr McCoy said Brexit is by far the most serious issue of all facing businesses here.
“Covid is very dramatic but it is kind of symmetrical, we are all in it together,” he said.
“There are a lot of asymmetries involved in Brexit and so that is why the CBI and Ibec need to work closely together, regardless of the circumstances.”
Mr McCoy acknowledge there are some potential positives arising from Brexit, even though it is a bad idea from an economic point of view.
In the medium term, the UK may well find new channels of prosperity and that would be a great thing, he said, as Ireland is so interconnected with it that we will share in that prosperity.
In relation to the Government response to the pandemic, the Ibec boss said not enough has been done to get office workers back.
“While schools are back, we still don’t know today what’s the plan for 50% of office occupancy back, because at the moment we are trailing in at 10-15%,” he said.
“And we see from the Central Business Districts that they are dying, and so those infrastructures and ecosystems won’t be able to hold up for, I don’t know, I wouldn’t call it in terms of a week or a month.”
“But we know that structurally huge damage is being done to our Central Business Districts and to our confidence.”
Mr McCoy also said he thinks that it is best for businesses to assume that we won’t get out of the pandemic in any kind of timeframe.
As a result it would be better for them to just create business models to live with this kind of scenario, he stated.