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Addressing the skills needs arising from the potential trade implications of Brexit

The UK has been a key partner and conduit for Ireland’s international trading activity since the foundation of the State, with the volume of exports and imports to and from the UK market and the integral role played by the UK landbridge as a channel for Ireland’s international trade. Such is the interrelationship between the Irish and UK economies, on a North-South as well as East-West basis, that the UK’s departure from the European Union [commonly known as Brexit – and potentially both the Single Market and Customs Union – poses one of the greatest challenges for the Irish economy since independence. This report seeks to identify the skills needs arising from the potential trade implications of Brexit. Examining the potential impact on a number of key internationally trading sectors, as well as the wider Freight Transport, Distribution and Logistics sector that underpins this trade, the study is an attempt to build the evidence base on the anticipated impact of Brexit, determine the skills response required to offset or mitigate this impact, and avail of any opportunities that arise., The report finds that a Hard Brexit scenario will have a pronounced impact on skills requirements across international trading and Logistics and Supply Chain activities, with the impact varying across sectors – some of which will require a fundamental change in the markets they serve, and how they transport goods to market, in order to offset its impact. Even those sectors not as directly exposed to the UK market will be affected by the potential implications for the UK landbridge, regulatory divergence and financial considerations. Overall, there is a lack of preparedness and understanding within sections of the enterprise base on what Brexit will require from a skills perspective, with clear gaps in areas such as customs expertise, financial management, and a need for skills measures to facilitate international traders and logistics and supply chain enterprises to explore new markets. In particular, there will be a need for a large number of new entrants into Freight Transport, Distribution and Logistics professions and to establish such roles as attractive career options. On the basis of this research and analysis, this study makes eight overarching recommendations, with 46 associated sub-actions, both short term and longer term in nature. These are directed towards enhancing the skills base from which Ireland can draw, for both diversifying into new markets and the smooth and efficient facilitation of international trade, in what going forward could potentially be a more restrictive trading environment with the UK.