BREXIT – BRING IT ON!

16 November 2018 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Brexit, we are being told, is reaching its negotiation end game – and as we went to press british Prime Minister Theresa May was attempting to find a winning position for the draft text of a withdrawal agreement on the chequered chessboard of an emergency meeting with her recalcitrant Cabinet.

Ms May’s starting position is anything but strong, and even if she pushes it past the Cabinet pawns, the deal will have to avoid checkmate when it faces the scrutiny of a special EU summit in brussels on November 25 and subsequent votes in Westminster and the European Parliament. And her strategy is ever overshadowed by the glowering black knights and queen of the DUP, who could decide to scatter the Prime Minister’s pieces off the board entirely if the agreement threatens to weaken what Arlene Foster refers to as “the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom”.

Ireland, which has a major stake in the game, must for the moment wait and watch, our Taoiseach and Cabinet, rather like spectators at some knife-edge grandmaster tournament, dying to shout out direction and encouragement but fearful of making noises that would make Ms May falter over her moves.

Whatever plays out in the latest brexit chess game, and all that follows, it will have major implications for Co Monaghan. but while we too are watching and waiting, there is a growing, and heartening, sense that businesses and communities in our circulation area are being proactive and imaginative in their preparations for the changes that will inevitably ensue when britain takes its leave of the European Union.

Two events in the Monaghan area on Monday, although not of themselves directly brexit-related, nonetheless reinforce the sense of progressive preparedness that is coming to denote the response of our businesspeople and community leaders to both the challenges and opportunities that will be visited on the border region in the years to come if the UK adheres to its current schedule for departure.

The first was an event held by the North Monaghan food production facility Silver Hill Farm to mark the visit of one of their major Asian customers. The impact which the duck produced in rural Emyvale has made on the highly competitive marketplace of Singapore is nothing short of phenomenal – when Minister for business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys TD declared on Monday that Silver Hill produced “the best duck in the world” one might have smiled indulgently at the Minister’s worthy parochial patriotism were it not for the readily assenting nods of the representatives of the leading Tung Lok Singapore restaurant chain, and one of the world’s best known celebrity chefs, that endorsed her declaration.

The powerful niche established for itself in the Asian marketplace, and plans by the company to extend its reach further into Indonesia and Malaysia, exemplifies the market diversification being urged on border region companies as an integral bulwark against any harmful brexit trade impacts. This success was not achieved overnight, but while it is not a knee-jerk reaction to brexit it is certainly an instructive template in foresightedness and forward planning that companies still planning their coping strategies could borrow some instructive pages from. And, as Silver Hill Chief Executive Micheál briody made clear on Monday, his company are very willing to assist their neighbours in the agri-food sector who wish to explore the potential of further and broader markets. This collegiate spirit is one of the things that will undoubtedly serve Co Monaghan enterprise well in the post-brexit climate.

Another major resource for us to draw on is the resourcefulness and exploration of cutting-edge technologies that is integral to another success story in the making that Minister Humphreys, in company with the Junior Minister for Housing and Urban Development Damien English TD, were witness to on Monday.

The Ministers were given a tour of a show house illustrating the modular concrete housing concept being developed by Wright Quarry Products under the buildWright brand. The long-established family business has devoted five years of research and finetuning into developing a system that seeks to carry intact all the advantages of traditional concrete build housing into a method of production that can deliver a finished housing unit in not merely a matter of months but weeks.

Given the objectives of the Rebuilding Ireland programme that the Government is implementing in order to address the exigent national need for housing, the quality and efficiency of the buildWright concept chimed strongly with Minister English, who in his meetings later with local authority housing personnel emphasised the need for a variety of methodologies and the expertise and acumen of local producers to be utilised in the delivery of the social housing targets that Monaghan and other local authorities have to meet in order to make the considerable stake the Government has riding on its Rebuilding Ireland model pay dividends.

A relatively small local company such as Wrights won’t solve the housing crisis on its own but Minister Dempsey was clear that it could have an important role to play. Co Monaghan has a great deal to be proud of when it comes to its businesses. Silver Hill Farm, Wrights Quarry Products and kindred enterprises spread right across our county are showing that they can lead their chosen field, and sometimes shake up the world a bit too, by drawing on their innate instinct for innovation. And they can achieve great things while still remaining deeply rooted in and committed to the communities from which they originated, supplying vital local employment and supporting growth, with a resilience and a work ethic born and forged in much harder and more challenging times than brexit, for all the bogeyman fears that have grown around that word, can conceivably herald in.

We will probably not in the immediate future be that much clearer about the practical outworkings of brexit whatever way the current “endgame” plays out. but there is a powerful sense emanating from the world of Co Monaghan enterprise that we are ready, willing and able for what lies ahead of us.

The message from our business leaders seems to be: brexit – bring it on!

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