Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Questions (1050)

Robert Troy


1050. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to strengthen the all-island economy; and the strategies under way in this regard. [34639/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

The economies of Ireland and Northern Ireland are closely connected. The benefits of free and open trade between Ireland and Northern Ireland have become readily apparent and we have been working – particularly through the services offered by InterTradeIreland (ITI) – to promote trade and business on an all-island and cross-border basis.

ITI is one of the six North/South Implementation Bodies established under the Good Friday Agreement. The body is jointly funded by my Department and its Northern Ireland counterpart, the Department for the Economy. ITI’s objective is to support businesses, through innovation and trade initiatives, to take advantage of North South co-operative opportunities, driving competitiveness, jobs and growth. ITI helps small businesses explore new cross-border markets, develop new products and services and become investor ready.

ITI produces a comprehensive quarterly all-island survey, the All-Island Business Monitor, which tracks all-island economic indicators such as sales, employment, business outlook and engagement in cross-border trade. The latest Business Monitor (Quarter 1, 2019) highlights the impact the uncertainty caused by Brexit is having on small and medium businesses, and particularly those engaged in cross-border trade. This research has helped us to better understand the potential impact of Brexit on firms across the island, especially those involved in cross-border trade, and informs our Brexit related work.

ITI has a key role to play in protecting North-South trade in the context of Brexit, as the body is uniquely well-positioned when it comes to understanding the needs of businesses on both sides of the border. I increased ITI’s capital allocation by 18%/1m this year, to enable it to provide a range of initiatives aimed at assisting SMEs to prepare for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

My Department also provided funding for a series of research reports, undertaken by the ESRI on behalf of ITI, which assessed the potential implications of Brexit for cross-border trade. This research has helped us to better understand the implications of Brexit on existing trade and to identify the sectors and business types which are most likely to need support in preparation for the changing trading relationship ahead of us.

ITI marks its 20th anniversary of promoting cross-border trade this year. During that time, the body has assisted over 39,000 businesses, supported the creation of 14,800 jobs and has generated more than £1bn/€1.2 billion in business development value through its programmes and initiatives. Cross border trade now stands at an all-time high and we will continue to support its growth, notwithstanding the challenges presented by Brexit, in the years ahead.