Whilst the UK is busy bedding in yet another Prime Minister to take credit for getting Brexit done, Irish businesses have spent the last number of years reviewing their supply chains and potential new markets. For Irish businesses our island status and geographic location with unique cultural and economic ties to the UK has created significant challenges not faced by other members of the EU. Many of the issues are well documented such as the unique relationship of Northern Ireland with the UK and with the Republic of Ireland (and therefore the EU). Also geographically the fact that Ireland is sometimes described as an island, off an island, off the cost of Europe shows the unique challenges facing Irish business. Prior to Brexit, Irish trade with the continent tended to be via the UK “land bridge”.
Unquestionably Brexit has had a profound impact on Irish businesses. Increasingly Irish business have chosen not to avail of the UK land bridge opting instead for direct routes to the Continent. The port of Rosslare in Ireland has become a hub for new trade routes directly with the continent of Europe. Rosslare is the closest port to mainland Europe. Twenty four direct routes between Rosslare and the European mainland have been created since 2020, with an almost 400% increase in European freight volumes.
Whilst the UK has been and still is a key trading partner, it is clear that businesses are increasingly seeking to diversify and identify other opportunities. This trend did not start with Brexit. The accession of Ireland to the EEC began a process under which Irish businesses sought access to other markets and a process of becoming less reliant on the UK. Brexit has accelerated this trend. The EU is the second largest economy in the world. The single market is made of 27 countries, of which Ireland is one. Irish businesses have a great opportunity to look further afield and avail of the opportunities that EU membership provides. According to Enterprise Ireland (EI), “the ability to seek out new international opportunities and capitalise on them will be a key success factor for Irish businesses in the period ahead.” Of note EI go on to state that “while the multinational sector has reaped the benefits of the single market, Irish owned businesses have yet to take advantage of what is the Biggest Free Trade agreement in the world”.
As can be seen from the above, the challenge is for Irish domestic businesses to make the leap and to see what opportunities are out there. For many Irish businesses the UK was the obvious market, helped by a common language and a common legal system. Earlier this Summer, Enterprise Ireland undertook a trade mission to France, Germany and the Netherlands. There are great opportunities for business in EU and supports from Enterprise Ireland. With this in mind we are putting the spotlight on the Netherlands as a route for accessing the mainland and providing a spring board for access to other EU Markets.
Why the Netherlands?
For many businesses that may be looking towards the continent and considering their options or developing markets, the Netherlands is a very attractive option. Marketed as the “Gateway to Europe”, it has a very well established and enviable trading and maritime history.
- Language – Whilst Dutch is the national language, the location of the Netherlands and its rich trading history means that many Dutch people are proficient in a number of languages, including English. 90% of the Dutch population speak English. In particular communicating through English is not regarded as a problem or an impediment for doing business.
- Access – The port of Rotterdam is ranked number one in Europe and number 2 globally. Amsterdam Schipol International airport is ranked number two in Europe in terms of connectivity. Flights times from Ireland to Schipol are one hour 40 minutes. Amsterdam provides access to the broader EU market with excellent infrastructure links to the EU consumer market.
- Culturally – Ireland and the Netherlands have much in common. Both countries have some historical similarities being smaller nations located in the shadow of larger neighbours. This brings challenges, but also opportunities, unique perspectives, mindset and ways of doing business.
- Business- The Netherlands has been a trading nation for centuries. This is important as the culture is very business friendly, open and tends to be focused on solutions. From experience the focus tends to be on making business easy, rather than drowning businesses in administrative paperwork or bureaucracy that can irritate those that are not used to such systems and way of doing business. Simple solutions and concepts such as “fiscal reps” are part and parcel of a culture that supports business.
- Population - The population of the Netherlands is 17.3 million. However on its doorstep is a population in excess of 400m, mostly within easy access from the Netherlands via rail or road.
Undoubtedly there are fantastic opportunities for indigenous Irish businesses that are looking to develop new markets. For many small or medium businesses, the idea of doing business in another jurisdiction can be challenging. In this regard having local advisors and support on the ground is critical.
RBK are delighted to welcome Toine Geesink, International Tax Partner with BOL International a leading Dutch accounting firm. Toine will discuss the opportunities for Irish businesses considering doing business in the Netherlands and also his experience of Brexit from the Dutch perspective. We look forward to showing Toine some Irish hospitality.