I thank Deputy Kelleher for raising this matter. My Department and its agencies are providing extensive supports to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit. These supports aim to assist businesses in identifying key risk areas and the practical preparatory actions to be taken over the coming months.
For 2019, I am allocating an extra €8 million to the enterprise agencies and regulatory bodies under my Department, which work with firms to develop their supports for business. I have also allocated an additional €5 million to the local enterprise offices, LEOs, for 2019 to increase their Brexit supports to businesses in every county.
The level of uptake of these supports shows that businesses are aware of the assistance on offer and are engaging with various initiatives and schemes that have been made available. A September 2017 survey reported that 38% of Enterprise Ireland clients surveyed had taken Brexit actions. In May 2018, this figure increased to 85% of Enterprise Ireland client companies surveyed. The survey reported that Enterprise Ireland client companies are taking action in areas such as market diversification; developing strategic partnerships; improving operational competitiveness; improving financial management; and strengthening business in the UK. This is a positive indication that companies are preparing for Brexit.
The Enterprise Ireland Brexit small and medium enterprises, SME, scorecard is an interactive online platform which can be used by all Irish companies to self-assess their exposure to Brexit. To date, 2,962 Brexit scorecards have been completed. The Be Prepared grant, also available through Enterprise Ireland, offers SME clients a grant of up to €5,000 to assist them in preparing an action plan for economic shocks such as Brexit. The grant can be used to help cover consultancy, travel and travel expenses associated with researching the direction of their action plan. A total of 137 Be Prepared grants have so far been approved.
Enterprise Ireland has run eight Brexit advisory clinics throughout the country to date. Approximately 590 people have attended these events and three more clinics are due to take place before the end of the year in Dundalk, Waterford and Limerick.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The local enterprise offices have organised various events to enable companies to learn about the potential impacts and opportunities of Brexit, and 3,925 participants have taken part in these events. In addition, 263 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit. The LEOs also engage in a number of other schemes to help companies prepare for Brexit. Technical assistance grants for micro export are offered as an incentive for LEO clients to explore and develop new market opportunities and 293 clients have been approved so far for this scheme.
The Brexit loan scheme, launched in March this year, makes a fund of up to €300 million available to eligible businesses to help them innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenge. So far, there have been 262 applications to the scheme, with 224 approved by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland.
InterTradeIreland's Brexit advisory service was established in May 2017 to provide a focal point for SMEs working to navigate the changes in cross-Border trading relationships brought about by Brexit negotiations. To date, the Brexit advisory service has engaged directly with more than 2,350 SMEs in Ireland through the various elements of the service. I have allocated an additional €1 million to InterTradeIreland for 2019 to increase the impact of its Brexit support for businesses. I am encouraged by the fact that businesses are engaging in high numbers with these supports. It shows that many businesses are taking the required steps of gathering information and preparing Brexit contingency plans.