Written answers

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment

Economic Policy

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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85. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment the extent to which industry and trade here have made sufficient and adequate provision to meet the challenges arising from Brexit and Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30877/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Ireland came through the initial economic shock of COVID-19 with unparalleled levels of State intervention aimed at stabilising the economy and supporting businesses, employment and incomes. Over €24.5 billion had been made available in support measures as of September 2020, including the July Jobs Stimulus of over €7 billion.

The total budgetary package of over €17.75 billion announced in Budget 2021 is unprecedented in both size and scale in the history of the Irish State further demonstrating the Government’s commitment to supporting the country through both the worst global pandemic in a century as well as the growing probability of a hard Brexit.

There is a wide range of supports available to help businesses impacted by the Covid 19 crisis, and details of these and their uptake are available on my Department’s website at the following address: . Most recently, the COVID-19 Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) has been introduced to help businesses who are severely restricted to meet ongoing costs through periods of restriction and provide employment as restrictions are eased and activity resumes.

Ireland's overall export performance over the last 10 years has been marked by year-on-year growth with total exports of goods and services reaching further record levels of €373.9bn in 2019. This strong performance continues to make a significant contribution to our economic growth. Indeed, despite the challenges posed for our economy by COVID-19, trade figures released by the CSO last month show that goods exports over the period January to July 2020 have increased by 6% compared to the same period in 2019.

The Irish exporting landscape remains strong, therefore, and companies in Ireland have been succeeding in winning business worldwide for their products and services. While the UK is, and will remain, a major market for Irish companies, expanding the Irish export footprint in markets beyond the UK is a key priority. In that context, Enterprise Ireland’s strategy is to support Irish exporters to be more innovative, competitive and market diversified.

IDA Ireland continues to emphasise the core elements of Ireland’s value proposition for foreign direct investment and the agency will continue to work closely with international clients, from a range of sectors, to attract job-rich investment from overseas firms.

€1.8 billion additional funding has been allocated in Budget 2021 to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in 2021 to support implementation of the necessary controls for agri-food exports to, and imports from, Britain after the end of the Brexit transition period this year.

The National Economic Plan, to be published in November, will look to the future setting the vision and roadmap to 2025 and the longer-term policy approaches to ensure that our economy will be resilient into the future.

Photo of Bernard DurkanBernard Durkan (Kildare North, Fine Gael)
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86. To ask the Minister for Trade, Enterprise and Employment the extent to which he and his Department continue to encourage new, indigenous and foreign direct investment in all regions here, thereby addressing particular economic issues that may arise or have arisen; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30878/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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As Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment I can assure the Deputy that I have a strong focus on balanced regional development, attracting and sustaining inward investment and protecting the viability of businesses and SMEs throughout the country.

My Department, and our agencies, assists enterprises of all types and sizes in Ireland, including through the ongoing work of Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices and IDA Ireland. For indigenous enterprise, this includes access to finance, management development, mentoring supports, business development programmes, market supports and trade promotion.

In addition to the regional focus of the enterprise agencies and the network of Local Enterprise Offices, nine Regional Enterprise Plans for the period to 2020, developed by regional stakeholders and overseen by my Department, were launched in early 2019 and are currently being implemented.

There is no doubt that Brexit presents challenges to our efforts to support regional development and we have placed a significant focus in Budget 2021 on ensuring that our regions are as prepared as we can be to meet future challenges. In preparing for Brexit, the Government has introduced a range of measures to assist businesses and SMEs which include Brexit checklists and advisory tools, direct grants and funding supports. For example, Enterprise Ireland are running an on-line Customs Insight course and will also launch a new Brexit Readiness Checker, while the new €2 billion Credit Guarantee Scheme is the largest guarantee scheme that has ever been provided for Irish businesses. These measures ensure there is financial assistance and advice available for Irish businesses as they reboot and rebuild both through COVID-19 and Brexit.

The Regional Enterprise Development Fund is funding 68 projects across all regions to a value of €100m and the Border Enterprise Development Fund, is funding 11 projects in the Border region to a value of €17m. In addition, 12 projects to a value of €4.6 million have been approved under the Regional Technology Clustering Fund. These projects will support regions throughout Ireland to build enterprise capability and capacity in a post-Brexit environment.

The Deputy will also be aware of the increase of €254m for my Department announced in the Budget. Together with the July Stimulus that provided a radical and far-reaching package of supports, we will continue to repair the damage that has been done and restore confidence and growth in the SME sector.

I convened the first meeting of the SME Task Force in September to discuss the needs of SMEs of medium-term growth and resilience, with Ministers English and Troy. We will soon be developing an SME Growth Plan to make our SMEs more productive, resilient and agile over the longer term, which will have regard to regional development priorities. This will form part of the National Economic Plan in November.

I can assure the Deputy that I will continue to work with my colleagues across Government and with stakeholders to examine all appropriate business supports to assist our regions to remain competitive and attractive for investment by indigenous businesses and leading corporates from around the world.

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