I can assure the Deputy that in so far as possible, my Department is seeking to maximise opportunities and minimise risks by ensuring the growth and resilience of Irish enterprise post Brexit. I have said in the past that Brexit does not present many business opportunities but is rather an exercise in damage limitation for businesses.
Nonetheless. we are working across Government to create the best environment for businesses to grow, export and create jobs.
The key elements of this include ensuring that firms have access to finance; that our tax regime is competitive and supportive of enterprise; that we invest in productivity enhancing infrastructure and promote national competitiveness; and that our agencies are appropriately resourced to help business to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that emerge.
We are supporting firms to start exporting, to grow their exports in existing markets and to diversify into new markets and regions. This support has been enhanced through the recruitment of an additional 100 Brexit related staff across the Department and its Agencies.
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. Our enterprise agencies are now opening new offices around the world to support our companies in competing and thriving in global markets.
Enterprise Ireland’s (EI) strategy is to support Irish exporters to be more innovative, competitive and market diversified.
Ministerial-led Trade Missions support the Government's major drive towards market diversification and I have led on a number of successful trade missions over the past year to help Irish companies to expand into new markets. The majority of trade missions are taking place to the Eurozone, North America and Asia Pacific, which represent the strongest growth opportunities for Irish companies.
It is noteworthy also that EI client companies achieved record levels of exports in 2018 of €23.8bn, against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty.
In 2018, the Eurozone region, which is a key focus of Enterprise Ireland’s diversification strategy, saw growth of 7.6% to €4.8bn, with Germany, France and the Netherlands each exceeding €1bn in exports.
Exports to North America increased from €3.87bn in 2017 to €4.08bn in 2018, an increase of 5.5%.
Some of the biggest opportunities in relation to Brexit for Ireland is in the investment area.
Ireland is already an attractive location in Europe for foreign direct investment (FDI) and we are well placed to attract investment from multinational companies wanting to locate within the EU and in an English-speaking common law country.
IDA Ireland continues to work closely with international clients, from a range of sectors, to mitigate the potential impact of Brexit and to capitalise on any opportunities for additional Brexit-related foreign direct investment (FDI) in the future.
In doing so, the IDA has targeted both new-name investors and increased investment from companies already located here. This approach has contributed to record results in recent years and should lead to further investment and job creation in the years ahead.
In addition, staff at IDA are working hard to avail of new investment opportunities from non-traditional target markets and the IDA has also restructured its global footprint in response to Brexit, with the UK now being treated as a distinct market.
The results of these efforts have already been positive, with over 80 Brexit-related investments and 5,300 associated jobs won to date.
Our efforts to secure more investment, post-Brexit, will be aided by our membership of the European Union. This ensures that companies considering an investment in Ireland will gain barrier-free access to the EU market.
When taken together with other strengths - such as our pro-enterprise environment and our highly skilled dynamic workforce - these factors will assist Ireland to continue to be an attractive destination for mobile overseas investment post Brexit.