Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
138. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the status of Brexit preparations from his Department and its agencies for 1 January 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43684/20]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 138 and 164 together.
Brexit, in whatever shape it finally takes, will have a significant impact on the Irish economy, fundamentally changing the trading environment for businesses trading with the UK, excluding Northern Ireland. With just two weeks until the UK leaves the Single Market and the Customs Union, work to ensure Government, business and citizens are getting Brexit ready is of paramount importance.
Since the outcome of the UK referendum on Brexit in 2016, Government has had in place a rolling work programme across all Departments to bring about the necessary changes for Brexit. The central objective has been to provide, as far as possible, for the continuity of the free flow of trade with the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) because change will happen from 1 January 2021.
As regards my own Department and agencies, over the course of the last four budgets we have taken extensive action to mitigate the worst effects of Brexit and delivered, through the enterprise agencies, a wide range of initiatives aimed at getting businesses ready for Brexit. These range from planning vouchers, consultancy and mentoring supports, tariff advisory services, research on new markets, and innovation supports. These are all provided through agencies such as Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices and InterTradeIreland.
Customs is an area that will most immediately impact businesses on 1 January next and we have been actively working to put in place grants and customs training programmes. As part of the July Jobs Stimulus, Government rolled out a €20 million Ready for Customs package to help businesses involved in exporting and importing with the UK to put in place the necessary internal arrangements, staffing, software, and IT systems to be ready for the new customs arrangements and regulatory requirements that will apply from 1 January 2021.
As part of this package, Enterprise Ireland launched a new “Ready for Customs” grant through which businesses can claim grants of up to €9,000 per eligible employee hired, or redeployed within the business, to a dedicated customs role. A second phase of Skillnet Ireland’s free customs training, Clear Customs Online 2020, is open for applications, to support the customs intermediary sector and businesses that trade frequently with, or through, the UK.
Enterprise Ireland also 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. The Local Enterprise Offices are also carrying out the second phase of their “Prepare Your Business for Customs” workshops throughout the country.
In addition to customs supports, Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices offer a range of other initiatives to help businesses to develop. Some of the Enterprise Ireland supports include the Be Prepared Grant, the Act On Initiative, the Market Discovery Fund and the Brexit Readiness Checker, while the Local Enterprise Offices offer the Technical Assistance for Micro-Exporters (TAME) grant.
InterTradeIreland is helping businesses who deal with cross-border trade prepare for Brexit. The Brexit Planning Voucher worth €2,250/£2,000 allows a business to contract professional advice to assist with Brexit and can for instance be used for customs training.
Brexit financial supports have been developed and are available through the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland such as the Brexit Loan Scheme which offers businesses the means to deal with short term liquidity issues that could arise for instance in buying stock.
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 new €2 billion Credit Guarantee Scheme, which was launched in mid-September, 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.
Regulatory agencies under my remit have ongoing engagement in important regulatory areas such as product certification and standardisation, market surveillance and on consumer and competition issues. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) and the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) have hosted a number of webinars to inform businesses of the important steps they need to take to be Brexit ready from a regulatory perspective. These webinars, along with others by other Departments and agencies across Government, are available on www.gov.ie/getbrexitready.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), have been informing online consumers what they need to do to prepare for the changes Brexit will bring. This has been supported by a recent advertising campaign, outlining what consumers should consider when purchasing goods from UK websites.
My Department, through its agencies, continue to proactively engage with businesses, whether it has been hosting webinars, which are all available online, to one-to-one meetings informing them of the steps they need to take to be Brexit ready.
Budget 2021 has been developed on a worst case scenario based of a No Deal Brexit. In the Budget, Government announced a recovery fund of €3.4 billion for a combination of COVID-19 and Brexit purposes with a specific contingency fund of €100 million earmarked to assist businesses to deal with Brexit.
Preparing for the change that Brexit will bring from the start of next year is a key priority right across Government. This work has intensified and will continue in the period ahead. We remain committed to doing everything we can to ensure that businesses and citizens are as ready as they can be for the end of transition.