Thursday, 27 June 2019

Questions (10)

Jan O'Sullivan

Question:

10. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the measures taken following research published in July 2018 by her Department and the Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI which indicated that Irish firms sourced over half of their supply chain materials from the UK in the context of growing concerns that a hard Brexit may occur later in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26925/19]

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Oral answers (12 contributions) (Question to Business)

My question follows on from Question No. 7. It relates to the report from which I quoted. It was published by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the ESRI and concerns the reliance on exports to the United Kingdom, particularly in respect of the supply chain. Will the Minister outline what measures are being taken to address the issue?

While many businesses have plans in place to mitigate the impacts of Brexit, I am conscious that some have delayed their Brexit planning owing to the degree of uncertainty in the United Kingdom surrounding Brexit. I urge all businesses to prepare, make all necessary decisions and complete all required administrative actions. My Department and its agencies have consistently advised businesses that it is crucial they check their supply chains for vulnerabilities to Brexit impacts. They should also contact their UK suppliers, service providers, logistics companies, wholesalers or distributors to seek assurances about the continuity of goods and services on which they rely to do business and assess whether it would make business sense to find an alternative supplier in the European Union.

It is important that businesses understand supports and advic are available to help them to prepare for Brexit. Companies in all sectors need to become more competitive, more innovative and diversify their export footprint into more international markets in response to Brexit. Enterprise Ireland and the 31 LEOs throughout the country have a wide range of supports available to enable companies to consolidate market share within the United Kingdom and also to become more resilient by broadening their sales to other international markets. The LEOs are the first stop shop for advice on starting and growing a business locally. Enterprise Ireland has a broad range of supports to help companies to prepare for Brexit, including the Brexit scorecard, the Be Prepared grant, advisory clinics, the agile innovation fund, the operational excellence offer, the market discovery fund, online customs training and the Act On Initiative consultancy. In addition, the LEOs recently launched their customs training offering, which is available to all companies.

In my engagements with businesses throughout the country, I have consistently emphasised the importance of firms putting all elements of their supply chains under the microscope, in particular, to assess the vulnerabilities of important goods and services inputs in the event that there is a hard Brexit. This is good business planning and it is only through working with suppliers and getting the necessary assurances as to continuity of supply in all potential Brexit scenarios that businesses can ensure their own resilience to shocks. Enterprise Ireland, the LEOs and ITI have a range of supports to help businesses through this assessment and planning process. My Department and the agencies are continuing to roll out regional advisory clinics throughout the country.

Brexit is coming down the tracks very quickly, if 31 October is to be the date on which it will happen. I am somewhat worried that the Minister is concerned about the delay on the part of many companies that the Department seems to have identified, despite the advice they have been given. The Minister referred to regional advice clinics in various places. How exactly is the Department informing all firms? The report indicates that Irish-owned firms are most affected because foreign-owned firms in Ireland are less likely to source their inputs from the United Kingdom. It goes on to state Irish-owned firms rely heavily on the United Kingdom as the source of intermediate inputs, that is, goods used to produce a final product. There is urgency attached to the issue. While the Minister has outlined the various schemes available, has the Department engaged with firms to ensure they will take the advice and the necessary actions?

There has been an increase in the number of companies availing of Brexit supports, although figures show that not all companies have engaged. Enterprise Ireland has contacted all of its clients and held Brexit events throughout the country. I will not list all the locations, but they have been held in every part of the country. There have been Getting Ireland Brexit Ready events, while in October and November, more than 2,500 people attended public outreach events in counties Cork, Galway, Monaghan, Dublin and Limerick, as well as in Letterkenny.

There was strong participation by the business community in those events. We have the local enterprise office, LEO, Brexit events. To date, 34 custom workshops have been run with a total of 468 participants. Six workshops are planned in the short-term. I want to try to make contact with as many businesses as we can. We tell them to look at their supply chains, where their goods are coming from and how they can make sure that this will not stop in the event of Brexit.

There is a pilot scheme in Cavan and Monaghan, Border counties which will be impacted by Brexit.

I will have another event on Thursday, 4 July in Cavan. I have asked the accountancy bodies to come on board and to bring their clients because everybody has an accountant.

I am trying to get two or three questions in. I ask everybody to co-operate. If we always go over time, those people will not get their questions answered.

I previously raised a question about the medical technology sector and the standardisation done in Britain. There is an issue related to that which may not have been resolved where, if Britain leaves, medical technology companies may not be able to use that standardisation.

I am working with the National Standards Authority of Ireland, NSAI, to ensure that companies know about the certification of what they are importing, to make sure that it meets EU standards and that they have continuity of supply. It is important that companies which are sourcing products from the UK engage with the NSAI. It is there to help them. There are many supports and if businesses still have not done anything about Brexit, I suggest that they do so. The Government is here to help. I ask businesses to use the range of supports available.