In the global race for investment, it is critical that Ireland does not lag behind its competitors when it comes to infrastructure investment and the cost of doing business. The country is at the very bottom of the EU league table for infrastructure spending, yet Ireland has the EU’s fastest-growing population. There has never been a more cost effective time for Government to borrow money and despite the many uncertainties we face, there is no reason not to be confident about the Irish economy’s potential for growth and continued success. The substance that Ireland has built up over the last quarter of a century means that if Government puts in place the right conditions, Ireland and its businesses are well poised for the challenges ahead. The following is a set of priorities from business for An Taoiseach.
Business priorities and solutions
Protect and prepare Ireland for a UK exit from the European Union
Ireland is uniquely exposed to the risks associated with the UK withdrawal from the EU. For Ireland, the relationship with our closest neighbour, ally, and of course competitor, is set to change fundamentally. This presents numerous and very serious challenges to the economy as a whole, and the individual businesses affected.
How? An Taoiseach should:
- secure commitments in any EU-UK deal that recognise the unique economic and political challenges that Brexit presents to Ireland; putting in place a range of contingency measures including provisions on travel and labour market rights, while addressing Ireland’s trade exposure and the challenges presented by the land border with Northern Ireland
- ensure the EU provides a state-aid framework to enable companies to trade successfully through Brexit’s disruption, retain UK market share, and diversify
- ensure, through work with EU colleagues and the UK, comprehensive transitional arrangements to avoid a precarious ‘cliff edge’ scenario, and allow business time to adapt to a new trading relationship
- retain Ireland’s cost competitiveness by being vigilant against excessive labour costs increases; and take strategic decisions to improve cost competitiveness in areas such as energy, regulatory and insurance costs
- ensure a level playing field in relation to Ireland’s business tax offering for indigenous business. This is in the context of a raised possibility of Irish SMEs servicing the UK market from within because of potential trade restrictions post-Brexit, and the more preferable tax treatment of SMEs in the UK
- collaborate with colleagues in the EU and the UK to ensure the closest possible EU-UK relationship post-Brexit
- ensure a smooth and orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU by working with EU colleagues and the UK to promote a fair financial settlement and a comprehensive agreement on the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU.
Safeguard Ireland’s position in the European Union
In a challenging global environment, the European Commission has launched several papers (and intends to launch more) on the future of the EU to generate a discussion between members and within member states on the future of the Union. It is critical to our competitiveness that this does not lead to a two tier Europe that disadvantages Ireland.
How? An Taoiseach should:
support improved cooperation and communication between euro and non-euro member states, working towards a strong and resilient single currency that will benefit Europe as a whole, not just the Eurozone countries.
- continue to engage constructively with EU27 partners post-Brexit on Irish strategic issues
- promote positive relations between the EU and the United Kingdom post-Brexit
- secure flexibility in existing EU fiscal rules to allow for infrastructure investment to stimulate growth and competitiveness, through work with Cabinet
- support and promote pro-enterprise single market policies, particularly in the digital economy area.
Accelerate the EU and Ireland’s development as leading globally competitive digital economies
Completing an effective EU digital single market framework and full adoption of digital technologies could be leveraged to add €27 billion to our GDP and have a positive net effect of up to 140,000 jobs by 2020. The appointment of a Minister of State (MoS) in DAT with expanded responsibility for data protection and the EU digital single market (DSM) has been positive. Ireland has made progress, but accelerated digital development through a ‘whole of government’ approach at both national and international level is required in order to complete the DSM framework and respond to challenges such as Brexit and increased global competition for mobile digital talent and investment.
How? An Taoiseach should:
- build on the success of the position of Minister of State for data protection and the DSM, expanding the role into a broader post for Digital Affairs that advises Cabinet and promotes Ireland as a digital economy
- ensure that the expanded role of the MoS builds on the success of the interdepartmental committee (IDC) established to respond to DSM implementation, by broadening the remit of this IDC to co-ordinate and deliver ‘a whole of government response’ to advancing our digital economy and delivering the DSM
- ensure that the MoS engages with stakeholders through a new mechanism such as a digital economy board of advisers, working in parallel to the national data forum, to assist the government and IDC in advancing Ireland’s broad digital economy agenda
- accelerate the development of a DSM that secures trust through smart regulation; ensures the free flow of data; attracts mobile digital talent and investment; promotes the development of skills; and encourages digital entrepreneurship and continued investment in digital infrastructure and innovation
- ensure any future free trade agreement between the EU and UK will contain a comprehensive chapter covering digital trade and data flows between the EU and the UK, and facilitate the closest possible post-Brexit co-operation
- continue to invest in Ireland’s data protection and cyber-security frameworks to protect our growing digital economy.
Ibec is Ireland's largest and most influential business representative. We proudly speak on behalf of 7,500 Irish businesses; home grown, multinational, big and small, spanning every sector of the economy and employing 70% of the private sector workforce in Ireland. Together with our 40+ trade associations, we lobby government and policy makers nationally and internationally to maintain a positive climate for business and drive economic growth. Our policy is shaped by our members through the work of our board, national council, policy committees and trade associations. We regularly produce market leading industry and business events, positions on issues impacting business, economic research, forecasts and analysis. We also provide a wide range of professional services and management training to members on all aspects of human resource management, occupational health and safety, employee relations and employment law. With 200 staff in 6 offices around Ireland as well as an office in Brussels and connections in the U.K. and Washington, Ibec communicates the Irish business voice to key stakeholders at home and abroad.
 Boston Consulting Group (2016) Digitizing Ireland – How Ireland can drive and benefit from an accelerated digitized economy in Europe.
 Ibec (2016) Can Ireland take a bigger byte?
 For example Belgium’s deputy prime minister is also the minister for their digital agenda.
Ibec (2016) Implementing a DSM that works