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Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

sec­ond ref­er­en­dum: Theresa May has been so strongly set against a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, she is un­likely to be the Prime Minister to call for one. It would only arise if her Brexit deal is dead and buried, in which case she is likely to be gone from of­fice. A sec­ond ref­er­en­dum could be called un­der a Labour-led gov­ern­ment but there are no guar­an­tees that Cor­byn would as prime minister opt for it. He may faff around for a while with Brus­sels try­ing to get a dif­fer­ent deal.

A Tory lead­er­ship con­test and a new Con­ser­va­tive Prime Minister could yield a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum but it is hard to see with­out a gen­eral elec­tion. Nor­way-plus deal: would not de­liver con­trol of bor­ders be­cause the UK would be open to im­mi­gra­tion from the EU. Con­trol of im­mi­gra­tion from EU coun­tries was a ma­jor rea­son why many peo­ple voted leave in the ref­er­en­dum.

It would not de­liver a to­tally open bor­der on the is­land of Ire­land. And there are no guar­an­tees the Bri­tish would even be granted a Nor­way-style deal by Brus­sels.

Nor­way is a small coun­try with a pop­u­la­tion of five mil­lion peo­ple. The UK is the fifth-largest econ­omy in the world with 65 mil­lion peo­ple. Brexit deal: the EU and the UK un­der the May deal. In all like­li­hood those talks will not de­liver a com­pre­hen­sive trade deal by the end of 2022. That is just three years from now.

Those with ex­pe­ri­ence of trade deals sug­gest the UK will then face an­other cliff-edge Brexit co­nun­drum all over again in three years’ time. The Bor­der back­stop might be se­cured in this even­tu­al­ity, but lit­tle else. A dead­line, a new tick­ing Brexit time bomb.

If we thought on this side of the Ir­ish Sea that the Bri­tish political es­tab­lish­ment has been in a state of po­lite chaos, it is only get­ting started.

But as it brought, what one bro­ker de­scribed as, “clo­sure to its US jour­ney”, the group is pri­mar­ily fo­cused on, and now re­liant on, the per­for­mance of the UK econ­omy.

Green­core shares dipped af­ter the re­sults as CEO Pa­trick Coveney said its UK con­cerns are 100pc Brexit-re­lated and near-term.

The chal­lenges for Green­core are three­fold: eco­nomic uncer­tainty, dis­pos­able in­come and staffing. Uncer­tainty will im­pact on its share price as we are un­likely to see any let-up in the Brexit roller­coaster any time soon.

Brex­i­teers called it Project Fear 2.0, but eco­nomic as­sess­ments from the likes of the Bank of Eng­land on the im­pli­ca­tions of a nodeal Brexit sug­gest peo­ple won’t be buy­ing as many sand­wiches in fu­ture in such a sce­nario or growth po­ten­tial will be weak­ened at the very least.

On the staff front, Coveney said the com­pany was well on top of the work­force is­sues and that any labour con­cerns aris­ing from the UK’S exit from the EU, would be a medium-term is­sue. Half of its employees come from the UK, with 35pc non-bri­tish EU na­tion­als and 15pc com­ing from out­side the EU. All busi­nesses in these low-pay sec­tors have a level of staff churn and if fewer work­ers en­ter the coun­try from these coun­tries, it will put pres­sure on wages.

Pub busi­ness JD Wetherspoon is­sued a profit warn­ing on the back of wage rises. Ris­ing staff costs caused by a tighter labour mar­ket have be­gun to af­fect other Bri­tish busi­nesses too. There are fewer EU work­ers in the UK than two years ago. But ris­ing wage costs at this stage are more about a tight labour mar­ket than Brexit ex­o­duses from the coun­try. Un­em­ploy­ment is in the UK is at its low­est level since the mid-1970s. This may not be Brexit-re­lated — yet.

In the short term Green­core has put in place plans to ensure it has ac­cess to in­gre­di­ents etc in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Longer term, a no-deal Brexit would see the cost of in­gre­di­ents rise in an econ­omy with lower growth prospects.

Based on Green­core’s ac­tual trading per­for­mance in the last year, the Brexit-fac­tor may be over­stated. But it won’t lift until there is some clar­ity.

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