Dáil debates

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Financial Resolutions - Budget Statement 2020


2:15 pm

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

There will be checks if there is no-deal Brexit but we have no clarity as to what they will look like, where or what checks will take place and how long these checks will take.

We still have no idea how the major ports around our country will deal with the increased number of checks, the backlogs, the delays and how the trucks and containers will be handled. Will we see ships queuing outside Irish ports?

There has been precious little for Irish SMEs to work off. Their businesses have not been given the certainty and clarity that they need from the Government.

In today’s budget, some €650 million has been set aside for a no-deal Brexit. We welcome this funding and its intention to assist businesses to adapt to the new economic reality. This money cannot be tied up in red tape and needs to be deployed very quickly in a no-deal scenario. What is obviously missing from today's budget documentation, insofar as I can see, are any details as to how firms can access this funding immediately, bearing in mind that we are just over three weeks away from a potential crash-out.

We are seeing some progress in the number of firms registering with customs for an economic operators registration and identification, EORI, number, but there has been a very slow uptake to date across the various Brexit schemes that have been provided. In the Brexit loan Scheme, only €43 million of the €300 million fund has been sanctioned to date. Similarly, in the case of the future growth loan scheme, which is also a €300 million fund, just €44 million of that has been sanctioned, which proves the point that firms are very reluctant to take on additional debt at this time.

The same is true of all of the various grant schemes that have been announced. Just 216 companies have been approved in respect of the Be Prepared grants, fewer than 200 companies have been approved for the market discovery fund; just 60 companies have been approved for the agile innovation fund; fewer than 170 companies have been approved for the clear customs grant and just over 1,000 companies have obtained the strategic consultancy grant.

Businesses need certainty and they need support. While there may be an emerging view that Brexit will be deferred again to next year, there is no certainty of that. This could still go terribly wrong in the few weeks ahead. The Government needs to urgently provide the level of clarity and certainty needed and to allow these businesses, whose very survival is at stake, to plan for a very uncertain future.

It is important that we acknowledge in this House the support and solidarity that the Government and our country has had from our EU partners and to put that on the record. I have no hesitation in wishing both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste all the very best in the days and weeks ahead, as they seek to achieve the best possible outcome for Ireland in the context of the negotiations ahead.


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