Daniel Mulhall, Irish Ambassador to the UK, and Martin Shanahan, CEO of IDA Ireland, provide overview of Ireland’s business environment and supports

A poll of over 200 senior business leaders from leading financial services organisations, asset management firms and professional services companies attended a conference to discuss Ireland’s position as a Gateway to Europe in the post Brexit Universe on Wednesday 21st September at the Leadenhall Building, London.

Ireland’s Ambassador to the UK, Mr. Daniel Mulhall, opened the conference by telling delegates that whilst it may still be unclear what Brexit would mean for the UK, Ireland offers a very clear and strong location for companies seeking to ensure they retained access to the European Union’s trading environment.

Ambassador Mulhall stated, “Ireland has many things to offer the financial services industry such as our market access, our educated workforce, and the increasing depth and sophistication of our indigenous financial services' sector. This capability, global offering and growing reputation as a hub for specialist international financial services helps to promote Ireland as a destination and location for International Financial Services.

At a practical level, Ireland has in recent years added to its stock of high quality office spaces and continues to do so while maintaining rental costs at an internationally competitive level. There is also the consideration that many Irish people who have worked in the Financial Services arena outside of Ireland in recent years will be attracted home as Ireland continues to attract quality roles in this growing and important industry. The regulatory regime in Ireland is dependable and of high quality and in recent days the Central Bank of Ireland, as financial services regulator, announced that it is restructuring its activities to appropriately deal with the potential movements of service providers from London to Ireland”.

Also speaking at the event, Martin Shanahan, CEO of the IDA Ireland, outlined how the agency would be marketing Ireland post the UK’s EU Referendum, “Ireland’s stability, the certainty on EU membership and therefore access to the European market, coupled with the strong value proposition that Ireland already offers will be important in the period ahead.

This value proposition also includes access to talent (both Irish and European), a competitive, transparent and consistent taxation regime and the ease of doing business. Ireland shares many similarities with the UK. The fact that we are English speaking, have a common law system and a geographic proximity mean that Ireland will be the first choice for many companies that require a base within the European Union.”

The majority of attendees at the event, 59%, have already begun their contingency planning for Brexit. Although Ireland is being considered as a strong contender for moving of business operations out of the UK, other locations are also being considered, with Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands all in strong contention.

The main reasons provided for considering Ireland as an attractive destination for re-location are its common law jurisdiction, favourable tax regime, and having an English speaking population. On the downside, the different level of FS regulations, being a small local market, and the lack of commercial office space were all raised as issues for consideration.

Moderating the session, Eavan Saunders, Partner in William Fry said, “Ireland already has a strong reputation as a gateway to Europe both for financial services and more recently for technology companies. As our poll shows, Ireland is a key jurisdiction that is appealing to many companies undertaking post-Brexit contingency planning but there are also concerns around our capacity to continue to provide quality office space in the right locations, lack of an indigenous customer base for global financial services businesses and concerns on the level of personal tax, availability of housing and school places in comparison to other locations also offering EU access. Today’s event is about bringing together the key policy makers from Ireland and global business leaders and their advisors to discuss these opportunities and concerns in a constructive and realistic manner.”

Another speaker, Lord Patten of Barnes, Governor of Hong Kong from 1992 - 1997 and Commissioner for External Affairs for the European Union from 1999 - 2004, outlined what is likely to happen in the Brexit negotiations. Lord Patten stated, “This will obviously be long and complicated. There are six different sorts of negotiation we need to do. This is very much a voyage of discovery. I hope we are able to land in a good place for Britain and British business."

Speakers at the event also included Gareth Murphy, Director of Markets Supervision, Central Bank of Ireland and former economist and senior advisor at the Bank of England; Michael Lee, Head of Investment Origination and Co-Investor Development, Ireland Strategic Investment Fund; Erica Handling, Managing Director & General Counsel EMEA, Blackrock and Dan Morrissey, Partner in the Asset Management & Investment Funds practice at William Fry.