My Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advisory resources to ensure that businesses around the country are prepared for Brexit, including those in counties Cavan and Monaghan. While we cannot yet know the form that Brexit will take, these measures aim to assist businesses in identifying and managing key risk areas and developing practical preparatory actions regardless of the circumstances of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
My Department and I have participated in the whole-of-Government 'Getting Ireland Brexit Ready' public information campaign. This campaign features workshop events throughout the country, aimed primarily at businesses and people most impacted by Brexit, including an event in Monaghan. I have followed up on these success of the Getting Ireland Brexit Ready event with two further information and advisory events involving a broad range of agency earlier this month. I hosted an event in Cavan on 4 July and a further event in Monaghan on 8 July to help businesses further prepare for Brexit, with over 100 registered participants for each. I plan to follow-up these events in the coming weeks with further information events in the Border counties in particular.
A key priority for me is to increase the take-up of supports available to businesses in the Border counties, which are most exposed. The level of take-up is set out in the attached table which outlines the different Brexit-related supports available through the Department and its agencies as at 12 July 2019. Where available, the table includes information on the uptake of such schemes in counties Cavan and Monaghan.
Uptake Cavan Monaghan
The second table attached sets out the respective exchequer increases in allocations to ITI, EI, IDA and the LEOs between 2018 and 2019 and the cost/expenditure of the supports available. Whilst these increases are not all due to Brexit, they are mainly provided to assist the enterprise agencies in their responses to the challenges posed by Brexit.
The network of 31 LEOs is there to support businesses in preparing for Brexit, to ensure that businesses are informed and have plans in place to manage the new trading relationships on the island and with the UK more generally. The LEOs have organised and contributed to various events to enable companies to learn about the potential impacts and opportunities of Brexit, including events in Cavan and Monaghan. The LEO interactive one day Prepare Your Business for Customs workshop helps businesses understand the key customs concepts, documentation and processes required to succeed in a post-Brexit environment. 531 Participants have so far attended this Customs Training, of which 25 from Cavan and 32 from Monaghan.
LEO Cavan completed customs training workshops on 25 February and 16 July, with two further courses planned for September and November. LEO Monaghan completed customs workshops on 23 April and 18 June, with more customs workshops to be held in Castleblayney in July and September.
In addition, 673 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit. 84 of these businesses were from Cavan, while a further 46 were businesses from Monaghan.
The six LEOs in the Border region are also working together with their Northern Ireland counterparts under the EU Co-Innovate Programme. The aim of Co-Innovate is to give SMEs from the manufacturing and tradable services sectors in the eligible regions the tools and tailored support to help them to innovate, differentiate and compete successfully.
Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit Scorecard allows businesses to self-assess their exposure to Brexit-related impacts. Over 5,400 business have used Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit Scorecard to date, of which 132 were businesses in Cavan and 197 businesses in Monaghan. EI has also hosted 16 Brexit Advisory Clinics, including an event in Cootehill.
EI also launched a Customs Insights Online course at the beginning of the year. This is a new online training support to help all businesses understand how customs work including the documentation and process required to operate and succeed post Brexit. The Customs Insights course explains in clear and simple terms the main customs rules and included the key actions companies can take to prepare for customs after Brexit and the options from Revenue that are available to make the customs process more efficient. This is available for any company to use whether they are importers or exporters and also whether they are agency clients or not. There have been over 1,270 Customs Insights Course participants, including 39 from Cavan and 49 from Monaghan.
InterTradeIreland plays a major role as part of Ireland’s Brexit response and offers Brexit-related advisory services to eligible businesses. ITI maintains a Brexit Advisory Service to help businesses navigate their Brexit challenges. So far this year, more than 3,200 SMEs have directly engaged with the Brexit Advisory Service.
ITI also offers Brexit Planning and Brexit Implementation voucher schemes, which enable businesses to get professional advice on how best to plan, prepare and implement for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. These supports help businesses obtain advice on specific areas such as tariffs, currency management, regulatory and customs issues and movement of labour, goods and services.
ITI’s Brexit Planning vouchers are worth up to €2,250 (inclusive of VAT) each. 1,629 businesses have applied for a Brexit Planning voucher, of which 1,433 have been approved, including 53 from Cavan and 48 from Monaghan. ITI’s new Brexit Implementation Voucher provides financial support up to £5,000/€5,625 (inclusive of VAT), with InterTradeIreland paying 50%. This will allow businesses to implement critical changes making them better prepared to deal with a new trading relationship.
The Brexit Loan Scheme, using a combination of Irish Exchequer and EU guarantees, has leveraged up to €300 million of lending at a maximum interest rate 4% at a cost to the Exchequer of €23 million - €14 million provided by my Department and €9 million provided by Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
The Brexit Loan Scheme provides relatively short-term working capital, 1 to 3 years, to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees to help them to innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges. Businesses can confirm their eligibility with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) and, if deemed eligible, can apply to one of the participating finance providers for a loan under the scheme.
As at 12 July, there have been 678 applications for eligibility under the scheme, of which 608 have been approved to date by SBCI. 155 of those applications have progressed to sanction at bank value, to a total value of €34.16 million.
Uptake figures on a per county basis are available in the quarterly reports on the scheme. As of the most recent quarterly report, dated 31 March, 34 applications had been approved under the Brexit Loan Scheme from Cavan and Monaghan. The next quarterly report is expected in the coming weeks.
While I have seen a very positive uptake of the supports available, I am conscious that the delays to Brexit may have led businesses to defer their immediate planning. However, the UK’s exit from the EU will mean changes for Irish businesses, and particularly for those in the border region. I want businesses to know that my Department and its agencies are here to help. The existing supports, schemes and advice are in place to ensure that businesses are prepared for any Brexit scenario.