For entrepreneurs living in Northern Ireland, the past two years have been an unsettling time for most, especially for business owners who are unsure of where to invest their money and when to expand their operations.
Most of this expansion has been put on hold until an agreement was reached, however, last month saw the agreement of a transition period for when the UK leaves the European Union (EU) in 2019. This should give businesses in Northern Ireland some peace of mind after a long period of uncertainty.
But, what exactly does this mean for entrepreneurs and business owners alike? Northern Ireland and the notion of a hard border have been serious talking points throughout the debates.
Here at Glandore, we’ve dissected last month’s landmark agreement and picked out the most relevant facts relating to the future of businesses and trading for Northern Ireland companies for our members in Belfast.
One of the biggest concerns for businesses was the lack of a transition period after the UK does leave the EU next year. They would be left with little trade deals and would not have access to the EU customs union as they would have beforehand.
This new deal means that UK will now have unfettered access to both the single trade market and to the EU customs union until 2020. Meaning that businesses can trade as normal up until then.
Following this period, the UK government will then have to source new trade deals with other countries. This offers those in Northern Ireland some breathing room before the big “Leave” to continue trading without fear of losing trade benefits.
But what about those looking to invest in cities such as Belfast? Will this agreement provide the necessary reassurance needed to feel comfortable enough to invest? Or, will MNCs from the US still be hesitant about using Northern Ireland as a hub for their European operations?
Michael Kelly, our Managing Director here at Glandore, notes the importance of attracting multinational corporations from places like the US for the city of Belfast, even after Brexit.
“Glandore has been the launchpad for US tech corporate giants who used our service office spaces when they initially came to Northern Ireland. It’s these types of businesses we want to continue to attract after Brexit and believe providing this option shows how flexible, innovative and business-friendly the city of Belfast is,” said Michael.
In terms of expansion, a lot of SMEs in Northern Ireland who had been preparing for the end of free trade deals can now relax for a while and can begin looking towards expanding their operations once again after months of uncertainty.
Many expansion plans had been put on hold until a deal had been reached, meaning that businesses’ growth had been temporarily stunted within Northern Ireland. A transition period means continued growth for Northern Ireland businesses.
Although the majority of SMEs in Northern Ireland have probably welcomed this new agreement with open arms, there is still a need for laws to be put into place to solidify these commitments. Without the correct legislation, these promises are just that, promises. There is still no guarantee for business owners in Northern Ireland who have been one of the more vulnerable demographics in business since the vote to leave in 2016.
Also, this transition period has now a created a gap in time for those who have been behind on their preparations. Although businesses can now enjoy access to the customs union until 2020, the future is still very uncertain past this point. Businesses in Northern Ireland need to expect the worst, and put together a contingency plan to make sure they have a better chance of weathering the storm that is Brexit.
“Belfast has so much going for it. It’s always had to fight hard for what it has. The work of Invest NI in attracting software development, fintech and financial services, Cyber Security and legal back office companies has been immense in recent years, and I think they’ve actually learned a lot from the success of the IDA in the Republic,” said Michael.
“The costs of doing business in Belfast are considerably lower than in the likes of London and businesses are waking up to that in the wake of Brexit,” he continued.
At Glandore, we believe in supporting businesses in Northern Ireland through Brexit. We support the growth of the companies and individuals by creating flexible options that allow their business to easily expand. If you would like to learn more about becoming a Glandore member in our flexible office space, get in touch here.