Supply-chain damage will hurt us all

Supply-chain damage will hurt us all

Even at this late stage, we have few insights into the extent of damage any Brexit will do, never mind the sheer devastation of a  no-deal scenario which now seems unavoidable. Many Brexiteers in Northern Ireland take comfort from the high proportion of exports which go to the rest of the UK and therefore put a great deal of political effort into ensuring there will be no border in the Irish Sea. However, a report from the UK’s Office of National Statistics (ONS) pours some cold water on this comfort.

Northern Ireland businesses of all sizes would be“affected in the event of potential disruptions to cross-border trade as both large and micro, small and medium businesses seem to be integrated within cross-border supply chains”. To put that more plainly, the goods going to Britain are highly dependent on parts,components or perhaps supporting services from the Republic.

That cuts two ways, of course: all sorts of businesses in the Republic exporting around the EU or the world depend on parts from the north or Britain. Tariffs could destroy their supply chain and their whole business proposition, but so could the disruption at British ports which is now threatened.

Even where there seems to be some sectoral upside to Brexit, there is a downside pushing back. Fishermen in the north supported Brexit in the name of taking back ‘their’ fish, but now they find that they may not be able to sell the fish they catch in continental Europe.

The same applies to farmers: France takes half of all the sheepmeat produced in the UK and tariffs ‘could wipe out sheep farming‘ in the north, according to the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU). Of course, a disinterested observer might reasonably ask why the UFU did not say that at the time of the referendum.