Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment
54. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment if programmes of assistance will be made available to small and medium enterprises in the Border region that will be adversely affected by Brexit and that are heavily dependent on the Northern Irish and British markets as export destinations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30591/20]
Government is focusing on the businesses that could be worst affected by Brexit, such as those in agri-food and small exporters. This week's budget announced a series of measures and additional funding to help businesses get prepared for 1 January. We want to help them to retain their market in Britain and to open up other markets, a task that is made all the more difficult by Covid-19 because of the restrictions on international travel.
All businesses, however, even the smallest businesses, need to take immediate steps to understand the impact on their operations of the UK exit from the Single Market and customs union. They must be ready for changed customs and supply chains.
I want to stress the importance for businesses to act now to get ready for the changes that we know are coming on 1stJanuary 2021 and to make it clear that these changes will happen regardless of the outcome of the negotiations between the EU and the UK on a Free Trade Agreement.
Government is supporting Brexit preparations through the various Schemes and programmes implemented through our Agencies. Recently, I wrote to all 250,000 businesses that are registered in the State to inform them of the most important actions that they need to take in advance of 1 January and to provide them with a useful Brexit checklist of those actions and contact details of the Government agencies they can contact to help. The Revenue Commissioners have written to over 90,000 businesses that have traded with the UK since 2019 to advise them of the essential customs changes that lie ahead. That letter also included relevant information from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine on exporting animals, plants and products of animal and plant origin.
I launched a €20 million ‘Ready for Customs’ support scheme through my Department’s agency Enterprise Ireland to help businesses prepare for the challenges of trading with and through the UK.
In early September, Government published a Brexit Readiness Action Plan. This Plan provides guidance and advice to business and individuals in a vast range of areas including trade in goods and services, customs and other sanitary and phytosanitary checks and controls, import duties, EU single market accreditations, use of the UK landbridge, data transfer, recognition of qualifications, and many other issues. The Plan provides clear advice on steps that need to be taken by businesses to address these many and varied issues come 1 January 2021.
This readiness work is supported by a major national communications campaign under the ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ brand.
The Border Enterprise Development Fund (BEDF), which is administered by Enterprise Ireland, will provide support for collaborative, enterprise capability building projects, to advance entrepreneurship, productivity and innovation in the Border Region. The Fund is part of a €28 million economic stimulus package announced for the six border counties of Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal earlier this year. Under the BEDF 11 projects have recently been approved funding totalling over €17 million with projects approved in each of the Border counties.
Enterprise Ireland run an on-line Customs Insights course which is helping businesses to understand the key customs concepts, documentation and processes required to move goods from, to and through the UK.
Enterprise Ireland will also launch a Brexit Readiness Checker. The tool follows on from the Brexit Scorecard and will produce a report assessing a company’s readiness for Brexit across a range of key areas and signpost users to resources to assist them on their journey.
Enterprise Ireland will continue to offer its range of supports in the form of grants, mentoring and training to enable their clients to examine their exposure and their capability to meet both the challenges and opportunities Brexit presents.
In addition, the Local Enterprise Offices will be carrying out the second phase of their one-to-one successful Brexit mentoring and training “Prepare Your Business for Customs” workshops and will be supported by a full awareness campaign to target all relevant small Irish businesses together with the rollout of an online “Countdown Campaign” that will mark every significant day in the lead up to December 31st.
The LEOs will continue to offer their grants to business responding to Brexit challenges including the Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters (TAME) grant of €2,500 and LEAN for Micro grants to assist productivity improvements.
The new €2 billion Credit Guarantee Scheme, is the largest guarantee scheme that has ever been provided for Irish businesses to date to ensure there is financing available for Irish businesses as they reboot and rebuild both through Covid-19 and Brexit.
We have also provided further funding to MFI to ensure it can meet the needs of microenterprises that can not avail of bank funding over the coming period.
Businesses also need longer term funding for investment purposes, and the SBCI Future Growth Loan Scheme, which was expanded at the beginning of the Summer in response to very high demand, provides up to €800m in lending to eligible businesses to support strategic long-term investment, including for a post-Brexit/post-Covid-19 environment.
The full range of Enterprise Ireland, Local Enterprise Office (LEO) and Údarás na Gaeltachta grant and advisory supports continue to be available to eligible firms to help with strategies to access finance, commence or ramp-up online trading activity, reconfigure business models, cut costs, innovate, diversify markets and supply chains and to improve competitiveness.
I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to work with my colleagues across Government and with all stakeholders, to examine all such appropriate business supports to assist all businesses impacted by both Brexit and COVID-19 in the context of Budget 2021 and the upcoming national economic plan.