I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Pat Breen, to the House and appreciate his patience in respect of the delays earlier.
A week on from referendum day in the United Kingdom, some people have expressed frustration that we are still discussing Brexit. I am sorry to disappoint them but in the context of delivering sustainable full employment, the results of the referendum are extremely important. They present challenges, but also a few opportunities.
In the run up to the referendum, a small minority of commentators, such as David McWilliams, claimed that a Brexit would be a good development that Ireland could capitalise on for economic gain, despite the warnings of chaos and turmoil that are now starting to occur. They have got their wish. Writing in the Sunday Independent this week, former Minister and MEP Gay Mitchell put it well when he stated:
Britain will look after its own interests. It is our duty to ensure we put our best foot forward and that we maximise the benefits for Ireland, while minimising the fallout.
Ireland's place in Europe and the wider world is vital to delivering sustainable full employment, and that place has drastically changed in just a week.
As Senator James Reilly mentioned in the House on Tuesday, since 1999 Ireland has been the only English speaking country in the eurozone, and by 2018 it is likely that we will be the only English speaking country left in the EU, pending events in Scotland. It is important to emphasise that Ireland will continue to be an EU member, with full access to the Single Market and retaining all of our advantages for inward investment. We are committed to working within the EU to achieve the jobs and growth that are vital to deepening and broadening our economic recovery. I am heartened to hear that the Minister, Deputy Mitchell O'Connor, has already held a meeting with Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland to discuss contingency plans and that she, together with the enterprise agencies and the Ministers of State under her remit, will also be working to ensure that businesses, investors and potential investors in Ireland are fully informed of Ireland's continued commitment to the EU.
Already we have heard that both Morgan Stanley and HSBC are looking to move up to 3,000 employees from their offices in London to alternative European cities. According to a report in May, Brexit could push about £6 billion of investment into Ireland's financial services sector. One bank that has already moved some operations to Ireland is Switzerland's Credit Suisse, which said in December that it would make Dublin its primary hub for servicing hedge funds in Europe and move staff from London to here.
Ireland has an excellent global reputation in the financial services and financial technology sectors and I ask the Minister and the agencies under her remit to set up a special unit solely charged with trying to lure businesses looking to move from London to Ireland. Dublin in particular offers exiled bankers the English language and a similar legal system, and it is already home to back-office and servicing divisions for many international banks. The Minister of State, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, has already visited London as part of the advance contingency planning and I welcome his and the Government's vision to ensure Ireland is recognised as a global location of choice for specialised international financial services, building on our strengths in talent, technology, innovation and excellent client service while focusing on capturing new opportunities in a changing market and embracing the highest forms of governance.
Central to attracting more companies to Ireland and encouraging existing companies to expand their operations here is our corporate tax rate. When the UK eventually leaves the EU, we will be losing a great ally in the fight against efforts by the European Commission and other member states like France to bully Ireland into increasing this rate or to join in a harmonised European corporate tax rate. No one should forget that Ireland has a veto in this area and that there will be no move to alter that rate under this Fine Gael-led Government.
A report from Bloomberg earlier this week compared Dublin with Paris, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Amsterdam and even Edinburgh as possible destinations for financial institutions now looking to relocate from London in a post-Brexit world. A glowing recommendation brought just two negative concerns to light: a relative lack of office space and high personal tax rates. Our top line personal tax rate of 52% is much higher than the 45% rate in London or Paris or the 42% rate in Frankfurt. When it comes to office space, Dublin is on the back foot but there is scope to improve that with interesting and ambitious plans for a strategic development zone at the former Irish Glass Bottle Company site, while work continues apace in Cherrywood.
If office space is a concern, housing is a far bigger one. While the average monthly rent in Dublin compares very favourably to London or Paris, every one of us knows that there is a shortage of suitable housing in Dublin, especially to rent but also to buy. I welcome commitments by the Government to provide local authorities in Dublin with additional resources to deliver housing units, which will in turn alleviate the pressure on the private rental market, but more must be done to remove the barriers that are preventing private developers to proceed with plans on already zoned sites.
I thank the Minister again for taking the time to engage with the Seanad on this vital issue. Bearing in mind the events of the past week in the UK, I encourage everyone not to leave it solely to the Minister, IDA Ireland or Enterprise Ireland. We should all shout out loud and clear that Ireland is open for business.