Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment
67. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment the measures he plans to introduce or that are in place to support the sectors most exposed by Brexit and workers in those sectors. [30479/20]
Since the initial Brexit vote in 2016, the Government has worked to ensure that appropriate support is in place for businesses exposed to the economic impacts of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
All Government Departments, agencies and regulatory bodies, including those under my Department, are preparing for the end of the transition period. The Brexit Readiness Action Plan published by Government in September outlines the range of business supports available and sets out the preparations that Government is taking for the end of the transition period, which is now less than three months away, on 31 December 2020.
It is important that we ensure the most appropriate mix of timely, practical assistance to companies trading with or through the UK, when the transition period ends on 1 January. I wrote to 225,000 businesses last week on Brexit through the Companies Registration Office (CRO) setting out the full range of business advisory and funding assistance available and measures business can take before year-end.
For many businesses across a range of sectors, the most significant and immediate impact of Brexit will be on customs. As part of the July Stimulus, I announced a new €20 million Ready for Customssupport scheme. Enterprise Ireland is rolling out the scheme to help businesses prepare for the new challenges of trading with and through the UK. We are providing a grant of up to €9,000 to help businesses as they recruit and build staff expertise, and to provide for related investment in relevant ICT.
Enterprise Ireland also runs an online Customs Insight course, which helps businesses to understand the key customs concepts, documentation and processes required to move goods to, from and through the UK. For businesses still determining their response, Enterprise Ireland also offers a Brexit Readiness Checker.
The network of Local Enterprise Offices [LEOs] around the country are now carrying out the second phase of their Brexit mentoring and training workshops, Prepare Your Business for Customs. These will be supported by a full awareness campaign to target all relevant small Irish businesses, together with the rollout of an online Countdown Campaignto mark every significant date in the lead up to the end of the transition period.
The LEOs also continue to offer grant supports to businesses responding to Brexit-related challenges, including the Technical Assistance of Micro Exporters[TAME] grant of €2,500 and the LEAN for Microgrants to assist with productivity improvements.
I am conscious that the onset of COVID-19 has the left many Irish businesses more exposed than before to Brexit-related shocks. The €2 billion COVID-19 Credit Guarantee Scheme, which launched in mid-September, is the largest guarantee scheme that has ever been provided for Irish businesses to date and ensures that there is financing available for Irish businesses as they reboot and rebuild through COVID-19 and facing into Brexit.
We have also provided further funding to Microfinance Ireland to ensure that it can continue to meet the needs of microenterprises that cannot avail of bank funding over the coming months.
Businesses may also need longer-term funding for investment purposes, and the Future Growth Loan Scheme, which was recently expanded in response to significant demand, provides up to €800m in lending to eligible businesses to support strategic, long-term investment, including in response to Brexit and COVID-19.
For businesses seeking to make more immediate adjustments, the Brexit Loan Schemeremains in place for eligible, Brexit-exposed businesses as they seek to innovate, change or adapt in response to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
I am encouraging businesses to carefully consider their exposure to Brexit-related impacts, to take the necessary steps to insulate themselves from those impacts, and to ensure they can continue to trade after 1 January.
Earlier this week we announced a series of further measures in Budget 2021 to bolster our Brexit preparations.
The clear message I want to send to Irish businesses is “Don’t wait, act now.” Take advantage of the supports that are in place and prepare for the changes that Brexit will bring.