Thursday, 20th September 2018
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In glorious sunshine, the business community of Waterford welcomed Robin Barnett, British Ambassador to Ireland to Faithlegg for the annual Waterford Chamber President's Lunch. On the very day that crucial negotiations were ongoing at EU Council level in Brussels on the future of the UK's participation in the European Union, Ambassador Barnett offered his thoughts on Brexit.

"I am delighted to be here in Waterford attending the Chamber President's lunch. On Brexit, the Prime Minister has been clear that we are fully committed to avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, while maintaining the economic and constitutional integrity of the UK. We want to see a strong future partnership with the EU in both the economic and security spheres that works for the UK, Ireland and the rest of the EU 27.

"Meanwhile, I am keen that we make the most of both new and existing opportunities to enhance our bilateral trade in both directions, not least through partnerships. The Embassy is looking to build closer links between the cities and counties of Ireland and their UK counterparts. Dublin and London are two great capital cities. But we need to spread the benefits of prosperity right across both our countries. Waterford has ambitious plans for the future. As part of that, we see real opportunities for Waterford to forge stronger economic partnerships with the UK. Part of the aim of our visit here today is to explore how we can foster and support those links."

Welcoming Ambassador Barnett and his colleagues to Waterford, Chamber President Kathryn Kiely was emphatic in saying that Waterford was very much open for business and keen to explore the opportunities Brexit would present for developing Waterford as the Regional Capital of the South East.

"There are many existing long established trading and collaborative links by Waterford based companies with UK businesses and organisations. Waterford and the wider South East is renowned for global companies in the food and drinks industry such as Dawn Meats, Glanbia and Flahavans, among others who are not only exporting into the UK but also providing significant employment in their UK based operations. Likewise, the UK market is of critical importance to other key employers in Waterford such as in the engineering and tourism & hospitality sectors, business process services and construction related products.

"While we all acknowledge the complexities and uncertainties at an international and European level, we must remain positive and look at the opportunities that are also there and business community of Waterford has a critical role to play in articulating and shaping the vision for Waterford 2040.

"It is up to us collectively as a business community to set the ambition that will position and differentiate Waterford into the future to compete with cities of comparable scale and offering for investment and talent.

"The UK is and will remain a key market for Irish firms, notwithstanding the challenges that any Brexit outcome will present.

"It is vital that we continue to invest in our engagement with the UK to promote exports, expand bi-lateral investment opportunities of mutual benefit to Ireland and UK businesses. We certainly would hope that the outcome of the Brexit discussions will not be a hard Brexit but will offer an outcome that will present opportunities for all."

The event was sponsored by AIB Bank, and introducing their guest speaker David Hammond, Head of Home Mortgages ROI, AIB Group, Marian Keane, Head of Homes with AIB Waterford and Kilkenny said, "For all of us in AIB, our purpose is to back our customers to achieve their dreams and ambitions. The planned developments for Waterford heralds an exciting new era for Waterford and we very much look forward to continuing to support our community in achieving these dreams and ambitions."

Saying there was an optimistic horizon for Waterford, Mr Hammond said,

"Nationally we are seeing strong growth in mortgages with projections of €9bn for this year, up from €7.3bn. Mortgage approvals are up strongly. Year-on-year in Waterford alone we have had €55 million in applications year-to-date with €40 million in current approvals for customers in Waterford.

"We have a long association with Waterford and are proud to support the property market in the South East for which we see potential for further strong growth with a need for further supply to meet that demand."

The annual business lunch is one of the highlights on the Chamber calendar and brings together key stakeholders within the region for informal networking at a drinks reception, sponsored by Legacy Irish Cider and of course a delicious meal prepared by Faithlegg Head Chef Jenny Flynn.

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