The Chief Executive Officer of Enterprise Ireland has said that Ireland was uniquely placed to do well in global markets, but reaching an agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol was important.
Speaking on RTÉ’s The Business programme, Leo Clancy added that the aim of Enterprise Ireland is that at some point it will no longer be needed in the market, and that it’s “not close” yet but that is the ambition.
He said that Ireland had felt the dividends of being Brexit ready and the economy has been resilient. He said that Enterprise Ireland was more worried about the performance of the UK economy than Brexit going forward if things stay as they are.
“If we do not get it right on the on the agreement on the protocol, it could have consequences for Irish business,” Mr Clancy said.
Earlier this week, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris said that there was “still a way to go” in terms of a deal between the EU and UK government over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He was speaking following a meeting with Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin in Co Down.
Mr Martin also recently met Maros Šefčovič, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator. He said that there was growing trust between EU and UK negotiators, but cautioned that there was a long way to go before agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol might be reached.
In relation to Irish exporting businesses, he said that the majority are confident that they will increase exports in 2023.
“Ireland is in a really good place compared to other economies and that comes through into start-up funding,” he said.
He said 2021 and 2022 were very strong years after a tough 2020, but now the global economy has rebounded and prices and markets are good.
In relation to the tech sector last year, Mr Clancy said the large companies stripped back numbers to as little as nine months earlier, while the year saw 8% growth in tech and services with a 9% growth in digital tech.
He added that consumer tech companies are exposed to inflation and consumer sentiment. However he said that although Ireland has those, the predominant trend is business to business, such as processors.
Mr Clancy said that capital began backing off since the war in Ukraine, as “confidence was battered”, but Irish companies and investors cut their cloth earlier, and got together very early and made decisions.
He said that generally, capital is more cautious but there are signs of optimism in recent weeks that were not there last year. He said that there were hints the interest rate tightening cycle might not be as long.
Mr Clancy said that Enterprise Ireland has not jumped in to fill a gap, and there was still a reasonably good focus on investing in new businesses. He said that Enterprise Ireland matches private capital that believes in good business and 2022 saw “a very good heartbeat”.
He said that the big pinch point is labour and skills, adding that a full employment economy has huge benefit but labour is the biggest concern for companies across the board.
Looking to 2023, he said that based on a survey done in September and October of 600 of the largest exporters, 91% said that they plan to expand in 2023 and are confident.