Thursday, 22 November 2018

Questions (108)

Bernard Durkan


108. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the action she has taken to assist small and medium-sized enterprises withstand the threat of Brexit, including the Brexit loan scheme; if further initiatives are planned in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [48740/18]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

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 have allocated 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 Future Growth Loan Scheme was announced in Budget 2019 as a Brexit support measure for Irish businesses.  The Scheme will make up to €300 million funding available to eligible Irish SMEs, including those in primary agriculture, to support them to strategically invest over the long-term.  It will provide low cost loans for terms of between 8-10 years, which is not readily available on the market. 

This will complement the Brexit Working Capital  Loan Scheme which was launched in March this year, making a fund of up to €300 million available in the form of low cost loans of up to 3 years for eligible businesses to help them innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenge. So far, there have been 304 applications to the scheme, with 265 approved by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland. 

Local Enterprise Office funding has been increased by  22%, and this increase is being used to assist micro-enterprises in becoming more competitive and better able to cope with the changing environment in which they are operating. The suite of LEO Brexit supports includes tailored mentoring to address Brexit-related business challenges and targeted training on specific Brexit challenges.

Enterprise Ireland has established a Prepare for Brexit online portal and communications campaign, as well as an online "Brexit SME Scorecard" to help Irish businesses self-assess their exposure to Brexit and a "Be Prepared Grant" to support SME clients in planning to mitigate risks arising from Brexit.  It has also launched a new Eurozone Strategy to help SMEs broaden their export footprint beyond the UK. 

InterTrade Ireland'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 InterTrade Ireland for 2019 to increase the impact of its Brexit support for businesses.

As part of awareness-raising activities, EI has rolled out regional Brexit Advisory clinics throughout the year.  My Department and its agencies have also participated in the Getting Ireland Brexit Ready roadshow to inform businesses of supports available to them to prepare for Brexit.