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T’S STRESS­FUL not know­ing how Brexit and any bor­der re­stric­tions will im­pact on the busi­ness and then, of course, there’s the pres­sure in try­ing to find new mar­kets.”

So, says Des Goldrick, the owner of the Car­ling­ford Brew­ing Com­pany. He be­lieves that small busi­nesses such as his, which is ex­posed to Brexit, ur­gently need help in find­ing new mar­kets.

“To be hon­est, I think SMEs need ev­ery­thing to calm down for a while, so we can get our heads around what is, and could hap­pen, with Brexit”, he said.

The cross-bor­der trade mar­ket is worth €3.1bn an­nu­ally and is the first ex­port mar­ket for 74pc of Irish busi­ness. One of the tar­geted aims of Project Ire­land 2040 is to di­ver­sify trade from the UK to new mar­kets.

“I think I’ve a great busi­ness here, and it’s proved to be very pop­u­lar with north­ern stag and hen par­ties, as well as cor­po­rate work groups”, said Goldrick, “But I need help to mar­ket my busi­ness in France, Bel­gium or Ger­many. On a prac­ti­cal level, I don’t think I’d even know where to start.”

Fran­cis Car­roll, the owner of the Four Sea­sons Ho­tels in Car­ling­ford and Mon­aghan and the Im­pe­rial Ho­tel in Dun­dalk, also be­lieves that bet­ter mar­ket­ing of the north- east is vi­tal to com­bat the fall­out from Brexit.

“It’s all about the Wild At­lantic Way, and that’s great, but we’ve got the an­cient north- east and there needs to be more done to mar­ket this re­gion. Think about the great tales of Cuchu­lainn and the Brown Bull of Coo­ley, there’s so much that could be done to mar­ket this area, on a Euro­pean and international ba­sis,” said Car­roll.

“It wasn’t done be­fore be­cause Dun­dalk and the bor­der area had a bad name. But peo­ple have been work­ing across the bor­der very suc­cess­fully for the last 15 to 20 years, and sud­denly Brexit is bring­ing the bor­der back, and ev­ery­thing is un­clear.

“Any fu­ture bor­der re­stric­tions will make the area harder to mar­ket, which makes it harder for busi­ness, par­tic­u­larly the ho­tel busi­ness”, he added.

Thomas McEvoy, head of en­ter­prise at the Louth Lo­cal En­ter­prise Of­fice (LEO), said LEOs are en­cour­ag­ing clients to mo­bilise now and pre­pare for Brexit.

He said the ob­jec­tive of En­ter­prise Ire­land and LEOs, in the con­text of Project Ire­land 2040, was to strengthen busi­ness for any kind of Brexit.

“Project 2040 recog­nises the Drogheda, Dun­dalk Newry cor­ri­dor as an eco­nomic cen­tre of growth and that it has the largest pop­u­la­tion catch­ment in the coun­try, out­side of Dublin,” he said.

“It is hoped that en­cour­ag­ing the growth of this area as an eco­nomic cen­tre will help drive the econ­omy along the bor­der and act as a coun­ter­weight to Brexit.”

McEvoy said the LEOs were fo­cused on help­ing en­ter­prise to com­bat Brexit in four spe­cific ways.

“We are help­ing com­pa­nies to look at ways they can be­come more com­pet­i­tive, more in­no­va­tive, we’re help­ing to de­velop new mar­kets and look­ing at fi­nances, and how to mit­i­gate against cur­rency fluc­tu­a­tions,” he said.

As a start-up busi­ness, Des Goldrick said the Louth LEO had been “ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic” to him.

“I don’t think I’d be here with­out Louth LEO, but now, with Brexit, we need some­one to go out on be­half of SMEs and map out the places where new op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ists. I can sell my busi­ness, but in terms of new mar­kets, I need guid­ance as to where to do it,” he said.

For Fran­cis Car­roll, he said it was dif­fi­cult to pre­pare for Brexit when it was “all up in the air”.

“No one knows yet what’s hap­pen­ing, and un­til we know for def­i­nite, it’s hard to pre­pare. How can you pre­pare? Take us, as a ho­tel group. We pro­vide food, so, for ex­am­ple, chicken: there are clear EU rules and reg­u­la­tions on chicken. Post-Brexit, what will the rules and reg­u­la­tions be for chicken? Will there be a mix of EU and UK rules? Will they be dif­fer­ent? Where will we have to get our chicken? We don’t know. It’s all very vague,” he said.

Car­roll said the hope was that the ma­jor um­brella groups, such as En­ter­prise Ire­land, Failte Ire­land, the IDA and oth­ers would re­solve th­ese is­sues on an all-Ire­land ba­sis so that in­di­vid­u­als wouldn’t have to.

Paddy Malone, of Malone & Co Char­tered Ac­coun­tants and PRO of Dun­dalk Cham­ber of Com­merce, has no­ticed that his clients have been think­ing about where they will po­si­tion them­selves post-Brexit.

“Busi­nesses are def­i­nitely look­ing for in­for­ma­tion and as­sess­ing what they need to do, and I’d say that there’s an aware­ness that SMEs may need to keep a foot on both sides of the bor­der,” he said.

In that con­text, the fact Project Ire­land 2040 and the

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