BaileNuachtAithisc an Taoisigh

Speech by Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD at the European Financial Forum, Dublin Castle, 24 January 2017



Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Excellencies it is my pleasure to welcome you to the second annual European Financial Forum. I would like to in particular extend a warm welcome to our guests who have travelled from overseas to be with us today.

I believe that many of you will be staying in Ireland for a number of days. It is my hope that you have an enjoyable and productive stay and that you get to experience the cultural offerings of our beautiful country.

At the outset I would like to acknowledge the dedication that Minister Eoghan Murphy has shown in bringing so many high profile speakers and delegates from around the world to Dublin for this Forum as well as his work in driving the Government’s International Financial Services strategy.

I also want to thank IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, our Ambassadors and diplomats and the Department of Finance for their roles in organising today’s second annual European Financial Forum here in Dublin. I would also like to thank the Financial Times for their involvement in today's event, for the second year in a row.

Today's event brings together Irish and international industry leaders, policy makers, regulators and experts for the first time since the UK made its decision to leave the EU. Let me begin by saying that this Government is fully committed to the development of the international financial services sector in Ireland. We believe we have an important contribution to make to the industry globally, particularly in light of the UK decision to exit the EU and its expressed desire to leave the single market.

I want to be equally clear that Ireland will remain an enthusiastic member of the EU, the Single Market, and we plan to continue to be central players in the development of new EU policy and in the evolution of the EU itself.

This forum also provides us with the opportunity to showcase the talent we have in the international financial services sector in Ireland and to highlight the scale of preparations ongoing in our strategic response to Brexit.

For over 60 years Ireland has maintained a successful track record of competing for and winning global Foreign Direct Investment. One of the key pillars of this success is Ireland's position as an internationally recognised global centre for internationally traded financial services.

The cornerstone of Ireland's vision for financial services is our IFS2020 Strategy launched two years ago.

The Strategy has a clear vision for Ireland as the recognised global location of choice for specialist international financial services, building on our strengths in talent, technology, innovation and excellent client service. We are well on track to meet the growth target of 30% over 5 years with growth in the first two years above 13%.

In reality this means more businesses operating out of Ireland, more expertise locating into Ireland, and more opportunities for growth across the international markets that we have access to.

Since launching the strategy we have seen a number of our main objectives achieved in areas such as the launch of the IFS 2020 banner brand to the development of IFS apprenticeship programmes and specialist IFS post-graduate programmes to meet the ever-changing industry demands for high-quality, talented and innovative young workers.

We will continue to build on the successful work done over the last two years to ensure that we can achieve the maximum benefits for the international financial services sector.

While IFS 2020 has a set long term strategic vision and medium term targets, it is also a highly responsive strategy which responds to challenges and opportunities like Brexit as they occur. It is with this in mind that we have launched our IFS Action Plan for 2017 this week.

This year's Plan outlines Ireland's response to Brexit with a particular focus on the integration of the IFS 2020 Strategy into our wider Brexit planning and strategy process.

While Brexit undoubtedly presents challenges for Ireland, it offers us opportunities to attract new operations to our shores while also retaining and growing existing activities by ensuring that Ireland's IFS offerings remain competitive.

For over a year and a half the Irish government has been preparing for Brexit and we have consistently offered a very clear outline of what our priorities are. The day after the vote we released our own comprehensive contingency planning framework. We will work towards ensuring a positive outcome for our economy and our citizens covering Northern Ireland and the Peace Process, the Common Travel Area and of course the European Union itself.

Ireland has demonstrated a capacity to deal effectively with profound challenges to our economy and society, the recent period of economic turmoil and bailout being a case in point. Ireland has a clear plan and a clear response to the challenges that Brexit will present and we will overcome them one by one.

Our first priority is to build a strong economy, attract more Investment and target 200,000 new jobs by 2020.

Secondly, we are engaged in a huge diplomatic effort to ensure our European partners understand Irelands unique circumstances and concerns regarding Brexit. I am personally in the middle of meeting my fellow European Heads of State.

Following meetings with President Hollande, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Rajoy, Presidents Junker and Tusk, and Michel Barnier they are all better informed of Ireland's position. My upcoming meeting with Prime Minister May and my visit to Warsaw are the next steps in this process.

I also take the opportunity of each European Council meeting to talk informally with other EU leaders about our concerns and will do so again at the informal meeting scheduled for 3rd of February in Malta.

Finally we are prepared to negotiate hard and fair when discussions begin.

Our current diplomatic effort will benefit us at this point in addition to our sectoral Brexit forums around the country.

The clarifications that Prime Minister May provided last week in her speech on the UK Governments approach to the Brexit negotiation process are important as we continue our own preparations for the negotiation process between the EU and the UK on the terms of its withdrawal and on the future relationship between the EU and the UK.

Whilst of course we would prefer if the UK were not leaving the EU, Prime Minister May has made it clear that the UK still wants to have the closest possible economic relationship with the European Union. This is a goal that Ireland shares.

Ireland is, and will continue to be, a committed and enthusiastic member of the European Union. Our people understand the many benefits that EU membership brings to our country. My message to you is that Ireland's IFS sector is Brexit ready. We are well prepared for the changes that Brexit will bring.

The Government has made a public declaration of interest in Ireland becoming the location of the European Banking Authority, with a bid being led by the Department of Finance in collaboration with other State agencies. With its significant financial services sector and efficient transport links to other European capitals, Dublin is the ideal choice for the Authority's relocation.

And we continue to be a very desirable location for investment. After the UK's exit from the EU Ireland will be the only English speaking, common law country in the European Union. We will continue to offer a stable, predictable and certain business environment alongside continued access to the European market of over 400 million people.

I know that many UK based financial services companies are considering moving some of their operations in light of Brexit. Ireland remains an obvious choice for those wishing to maintain a presence in the Single Market.

Over 200 multinational financial services companies have operations in Ireland covering the whole sector, including asset management and investment, aircraft leasing, banking and funds. Last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos I had the pleasure of meeting many of the financial services companies who now call Dublin home.

We will continue to work hard to sell the many advantages of Ireland’s enterprise environment. The whole Government, and especially our Minister for Financial Services Eoghan Murphy, have been travelling extensively to promote Ireland as a location for financial services.

Since our independence Ireland has weathered many challenges and emerged a stronger people. We emerge from these challenges stronger because of the belief in working together as a people and as a nation to build a better future.

Our best days are still ahead.

I thank you for attending today and I look forward to hearing about your deliberations.