Chambers Ireland Summer 2020 Newsletter

Chambers Ireland Summer 2020 Newsletter

The expression, “the past is a foreign country” feels somewhat fitting as we look back on the last three months since our last newsletter. Back in February, the dust was starting to settle following the recent General Election and Chambers were seeking to influence those newly elected TDs as they moved to form a Government.

Fast forward to May, approaching the summer months, and the Ireland we find ourselves in now would have been unimaginable then. COVID-19 reached our shores in late February and within only a few weeks, Government had moved to introduce restrictions on movement and directed closures of significant parts of the economy, except for “essential services”.

Large chunks of the economy have seen a collapse in their revenue, and while Government has published a Roadmap to Reopening the Economy, the future for so many businesses and local economies remains unclear. The most recent Live Register figures note that 28% of people now find themselves not in employment, with a significant proportion of that number in receipt of the new Pandemic Unemployment Payment. Indeed, our President Siobhan Kinsella has been emphasising the need for a new approach to skills, retraining and job creation, in response to these figures.  In response to the skills and productivity challenge, Chambers Ireland has also partnered with Griffith College to offer training courses to help “reboot your business”.

The policy and public affairs team in Chambers Ireland has responded to the upheaval by ensuring that the voices of businesses across the country are being heard. By now, we have published three sets of survey results, detailing the diminishing economic sentiment of businesses throughout our Network and documenting what supports the economy will need from Government if it is to reopen when the threat of the virus passes.

To add to this, a Government is yet to be formed, although negotiations between Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party are in progress. Over the coming months, Chambers Ireland will continue to listen to members, and raise their concerns and ideas with Government. Rebuilding and rebooting the economy, in a way that is sustainable and enshrines balanced development across the regions, will be no easy task. We will be talking to newly elected TDs about the needs of business, about our Places Matter manifesto and about what a sustainable Ireland should look like.

We look forward to working with our members in the months to come as we face these challenges and influence their outcomes!

Emma Kerins

Head of Policy and Public Affairs

*See more details below*


The Chambers Ireland Response to COVID-19

Chambers Ireland has been responding to the changing business circumstances since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis – helping to drive government action and channelling that action towards policies which support the business community through this economic cataclysm.

Our network has supported our business membership base though massively expanding our training and webinar provision, both through local level events – many of which have been opened to the members of other chambers in the network – and also national offerings such as with our collaboration with Griffith College.

A major element of our response to this crisis has been the series of surveys which we have been conducting with our membership. We have been able to use the information gathered to inform officials, and politicians from all parties, about the scale of the issues that are affecting businesses throughout the country – providing support for policies that work and working to counter policies that don’t.

We have been able to demonstrate how significant the sectoral – and regional – impact of Covid-19 closures has been.

As a supporting evidence base we have been able to successfully build our arguments for direct government grants to business, the waiving of commercial rates for affected businesses, and for direct financial support from the exchequer for the Local Authorities that will see a shortfall in their budgets arising from the decline in commercial rates.

Together with our sister chambers in Europe we have continued to lobby for a unified European front which counters the effects of the disease while also maintaining the integrity of the trade networks which the single market is comprised of.

The EU Response to COVID-19

Image source: European Commission

While the EU comes to grips with the most effective way of managing this crisis, national governments are continuing their efforts to reduce the economic impact of the pandemic. Many member states have introduced a range of measures in the same manner as Ireland, placing moratoriums on repayments of personal and business loans, as well as freezes on the payment of a range of taxes and supports for the continuity of business post-crisis.

Meanwhile EU leaders have welcomed a European roadmap towards lifting COVID-19 containment measures and a roadmap for recovery. In addition to measures such as relaxing State Aid rules and the introduction of a €37bn Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative, the roadmaps further define four key areas for EU-level action:

  • the Single Market
  • a Significant Investment Strategy
  • Europe’s Global Influence
  • EU Governance

Although differences between the leaders continue to be significant on each of the main points of a recovery plan, such as the size and the type of instruments to channel funds (grants or loans), a consensus is beginning to emerge on the overall framework to overcome what is likely to be the deepest recession that the bloc has suffered in its history.

The rescue fund proposal will come as part of the updated draft of the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) (2021-2027). It will come on top of the €540bn liquidity package for member states, companies and workers already agreed by the Eurogroup, and rubber-stamped by the leaders during a teleconference on 23 April. The expected MFF is to be put forward within the next couple of weeks.

Useful Links

For more on the EU institutional level response, please visit our most recent blog post on the EU’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Timeline of an overview on the latest EU actions in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak

Chambers Ireland guide to COVID-19 Policy Responses – View from the EU

COVID-19 & Global Trade

Rules based trade and open markets continue to be a priority for Chambers Ireland. The onset of COVID-19 brought its own unique set of challenges to trade and globalised markets, when in early April, the WTO published a report on the impact of COVID-19 on global trade, particularly the trade of medical equipment. This follows controversy at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic that obstacles and restrictions on free movement of goods were beginning to emerge in the Single Market. This was paired with growing levels of protectionism.

In a letter to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and to Commissioner Hogan, Chambers Ireland joined Eurochambres in calling for the EU to take prompt action to safeguard global trade in goods and services, maintain global supply chains, as well as export markets and import supplies. Looking ahead, we joined with Eurochambres in calling for the EU and its member states to increase their strategic supply chain security, so as to foster European resilience, including more independence in the crucial area of public health

Following this letter, Commissioner Hogan, in an address to a meeting of the EU Council of Ministers, echoed several of the messages highlighted in the joint letter. In particular, he stressed that rules-based trade is essential for business. It provides a stable and predictable framework and our efforts to modernise the WTO therefore remain essential. The leadership we display in restoring global dialogue will be closely watched by others.

The Chief Economist Team at DG Trade have published a report on what it believes the impact of COVID-19 will be on global and EU trade. Some of the key findings include:

  • 9.7% decrease in global trade for 2020
  • 9.2% reduction in extra-EU27 exports of goods and services in 2020
  • 8.7% decrease in extra-EU27 imports 2020

All of this amounts to a reduction of exports by approx. €285bn and €240bn in extra-EU imports (goods and services combined).

The Path Towards Sustainable Mobility

A key element of our agenda for 2020 is the promotion of policies which support and enhance urban living. Both our Housing and our Low Carbon/Green Economy Taskforces have been directed to explore and promote policies which will aid the densification of our urban centres and the revitalisation of our cities and towns.

An important part of this will be the creation of people-friendly streets, which we called for in our submission to the Department of Transport.

Getting transport right is fundamental to the creation of a healthy economy and a healthy society and requires that our urban centres change to become people-friendly places.

Customers and commuters desire safety, certainty, and frequency when it comes to their travel options. With these qualities being unavailable through public transport and active transport options, we have become over-reliant on our cars, with Irish cities ranking among the worst in the world for congestion.

These long commutes are detrimental to both productivity and quality of life, they transfer the costs of poor transport infrastructure onto the individual thereby driving up wage claims while at the same time damaging urban economies across the country.

As all our major towns and cities have seen, the retail trade thrives off footfall. The creation of space for people is a fundamental part of restoring the economies of town centres – even small changes, such as reducing the access of private vehicles to Cork’s Patrick Street have resulted in increased business opportunities, and revenue, for commercial enterprises based there.

Shifting the focus of transport policy away from congestion, and towards the efficient throughput of people, by whatever means, would be vital for our economic wellbeing, even if it wasn’t also an essential part of our action on climate.







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