Written answers

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

Brexit Issues

Alan Dillon (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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128. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he has concerns regarding the communication of the impact that Brexit will have on Irish consumers in terms of online shopping from the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44121/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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From 1 January next, EU consumer rights will no longer automatically apply when EU consumers buy from UK based retailers including those operating online. After that date, EU consumers who purchase goods from UK based businesses will only have the protection of UK consumer legislation.

For these reasons, and especially in the run up to Brexit, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has published useful advice and information about the potential impacts of Brexit for Irish consumers. The CCPC has also engaged with other agencies to get the word out to consumers who may buy from UK websites after 1st January.

The CCPC has alerted Irish consumers to be cautious and advised them to:

- check the identity of the trader or UK website which they intend to deal with,

- familiarise themselves with the terms and conditions that apply to purchases they make from UK traders and,

- has also reminded consumers they may find it difficult to enforce consumer rights applying in the UK should issues arise with UK retailers in the future.

Last week, the CCPC published a consumer checklist and earlier this month published market research "Brexit and Covid-19: Consumer behavior and awareness when shopping online" which has informed communications with consumers through official channels. The market research highlighted uncertainty about consumer rights that apply when shopping online, and confirmed the high levels of online shopping from UK based sites.

The CCPC has a dedicated Brexit hub page on its website which provides consumer information about the impact of Brexit on shopping online, roaming charges, package holidays and consumer charges. The CCPC helpline also provides information to consumers on Brexit related queries and this will remain open over the New Year period to answer consumer queries that may arise. The handy and printable "Brexit checklist for online shopping" is also available on their website.

I would also welcome efforts by UK based retailers to forewarn their customers in Ireland about impending changes after the transition period expires and what these changes will mean for them.

Of course, it is timely to remember that we continue to enjoy our full consumer rights when we buy locally so I would encourage everyone to "Look for Local" when we buy and to support our local retailers.

Photo of Richard BrutonRichard Bruton (Dublin Bay North, Fine Gael)
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129. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the trading prospects following Brexit; and if new policy tools are being considered to protect jobs in the post-Brexit environment. [43184/20]

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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Since the UK decision to leave the EU in 2016 my Department has, through Enterprise Ireland, been actively working on a strategy of market diversification.

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 €374 billion in 2019.

The overall scale of the Ireland-UK trade relationship can be seen through the €51 billion of goods and services we exported in 2019, while importing €41 billion from the UK. 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.

The Irish exporting landscape has been strong and companies in Ireland have been succeeding in winning business worldwide for their products and services. Enterprise Ireland client companies achieved record levels of worldwide exports in 2019 of €25.6bn, against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty. In 2019, the Eurozone region, which is a key focus of Enterprise Ireland’s diversification strategy, saw growth of 15% to €5.65bn, with Germany, France and the Netherlands each exceeding €1bn in exports. Exports to North America increased from €4.08bn in 2018 to €4.72bn, an increase of 16%.

Enterprise Ireland client companies exports to the UK amounted to €7.9 billion in 2019, which represent an increase of 2% on the 2018 figure. While the UK continues to be the top export market for Enterprise Ireland client companies, such exports now account for 31% of total exports, having fallen from 36% in 2015 in accordance with the market diversification strategy.

As we continue to address the many challenges and complexities raised by Brexit, it is our intention to maintain our trading relationship with the UK in the years ahead. For that reason, as part of the Global Ireland 2025 Strategy, Enterprise Ireland opened a new office in Manchester in 2019. There has also been increased investment in our Embassy in London, by the Department of Foreign Affairs and from my Department and others, to ensure that our largest bilateral mission is fully equipped for these new challenges.

The Consulate General in Cardiff, was also re-opened in April of 2019; and the Government also plans to open a new Consulate General of Ireland for the North of England, in Manchester, next year. This new Consulate General, which will work with the new Enterprise Ireland office in Manchester, will advance our interests across the entire Northern Powerhouse region of 15 million people and send a strong signal of our commitment to the British-Irish relationship – and to Irish business interests there – following the UK’s departure from the European Union.

In response to the various challenges that businesses face as a result of Brexit we have, over the course of the last three budgets put in place through the enterprise agencies, an extensive range of enterprise supports to assist businesses to meet these challenges. They range from supports for companies in the field of market diversification, liquidity supports through short-term and long-term loans, to restructuring aid for businesses in severe operating difficulties. The majority of enterprise supports are open to all businesses, including SMEs, and not just those that are clients of the enterprise agencies.

Budget 2021 allocated unprecedented resources to confronting the twin challenges of COVID-19 and Brexit, with €340 million to be spent on Brexit-related measures. Government has also provided for a €3.4 billion recovery fund to assist businesses in the aftermath of COVID-19 and Brexit. A full list of supports is available on my Department’s website and on www.Gov.ie/Brexit.

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