I most recently met with Margrethe Vestager, EU Commissioner for Competition on 24 January 2019 in my Department. At our meeting, I acknowledged the strong engagement between her team in DG Competition and the Irish officials of the Brexit State Aid Technical Working Group in designing supports for enterprises impacted by Brexit, utilising all the flexibility within the State Aid framework. I also highlighted that there would be a need for further flexibility in the event of a hard Brexit particularly regarding supports for liquidity and transformational investment.
The Commissioner acknowledged that Ireland is more exposed to Brexit impacts than any other EU Member State to the impacts of Brexit. She noted that the engagement between her team and the Irish officials had facilitated their greater understanding of this exposure and she emphasised that the Commission stands ready to act urgently in mitigation against the impacts of Brexit on Irish firms.
The Commissioner committed to providing the highest level of support to Ireland – including a dedicated team of State Aid experts to deal with Irish cases expeditiously and to address the individual merits of cases, targeted where the greatest impact will be achieved.
Our Brexit State Aid Technical Working Group with DG Competition was established in 2017, comprising senior representatives from DG Competition, the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation, Enterprise Ireland and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, to scope and design schemes to support enterprises impacted by Brexit in line with State Aid rules.
Much has been achieved by this Working Group. It has examined and explored a range of opportunities within State Aid rules including the development of the Future Growth Loan Scheme under GBER rules, and the expansion of Ireland’s Rescue and Restructuring Scheme to include Temporary liquidity aid, and to increase the budget for the Rescue & Restructuring Scheme to €200 million. Through the mechanism of the Technical Working Group Ireland has fully utilised the provisions of the State aid framework to enable the investment by Enterprise Ireland of €74 million in Brexit impacted businesses in 2018. Options available through the Agriculture Guidelines are also being developed to support large food companies.
Since November 2017, the Working Group has met at regular intervals and in between these meetings, there has been engagement on specific issues to continue to progress matters and to address any State aid issues that may arise, to ensure a rapid and appropriate response as the ultimate shape of Brexit and its firm-level implications become known.
The next meeting of the Working Group will take place later this week in Brussels on Friday 28th June.