I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Making the Jump

Making the Jump

Frank Barry
There were few foreign-owned manufacturing operations in the Irish Free State at independence. Surprisingly, the largest was American rather than British: Ford had started tractor production in Cork in 1919. Irish biscuitmaker Jacob’s factory in Liverpool employed more than any British firm in the twenty-six counties. Foreign direct investment would increase dramatically with the growth of protectionist barriers in subsequent years. Foreign firms “jumped over” the new barriers by establishing overseas operations to allow them access to their traditional markets. Independence saw excise duties imposed on British-Irish trade in cigarettes. By the late 1920s the Dublin factory of British firm Players-Wills was one of the largest in the state. Dundalk firm Carrolls crossed the Irish Sea in the opposite direction. One of its brands, “Sweet Afton”, was particularly popular in Scotland. (The sister of Robbie Burns, whose portrait adorned the packet, had lived in Dundalk.) Carrolls had gained market share by supplying free tobacco to the front lines in World War One. It opened a plant in Liverpool in 1923. The trend accelerated when trade barriers were raised in the 1930s. Guinness established its Park Royal plant in London when threatened with British tariffs. Fianna Fáil, which came to power in 1932, pursued a policy of “import-substituting industrialisation”. Towards the end of the protectionist era, British firms such as Cadbury and Rowntree, Dunlop, Ranks Flour and Clarks Shoes were among the largest manufacturers in the country. In today’s globalised world, such “tariff-jumping” foreign direct investment (FDI) has retreated to the margins. For the multinational corporations in Ireland today – the likes of Google and Intel, Apple and Pfizer – the country serves as an export platform from which to service European markets. Yet given the protectionist sentiments that have been growing in strength on both sides of the Atlantic of late, tariff-jumping FDI may be set for a return. When governments place obstacles in the way of business, business does its best to find ways around them. A “hard Brexit” will undoubtedly create grave difficulties for Irish-owned businesses. The UK remains their most significant export market. That British businesses represent their main competitors on the Irish home market will offer only minor compensation, particularly if sterling continues to weaken. Tariff-jumping FDI will come to seem an obvious response. Irish firms will establish operations in the UK, as Jacob’s, Guinness and Carroll’s have done in the past. (Jacob’s began production in…

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