Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Questions (319)

Niamh Smyth


319. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of applicants and participants in Brexit schemes and supports provided by her Department or agencies under her remit in tabular form; the counties these companies are located in; and the amount allocated and expended to each such scheme in each year since being established. [37567/19]

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Written answers (Question to Business)

Since 2016, my Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advisory resources to prepare Irish businesses for the potential challenges posed by Brexit by helping them to assess their preparedness and helping them to implement practical action plans in areas such as customs, supply chain and sourcing, and financial management. These measures aim to assist businesses in identifying and managing key risk areas and develop practical preparatory actions regardless of the circumstances of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The Government’s suite of Brexit supports include preparedness vouchers, consultancy and mentoring supports, tariff advisory services, research on new markets and innovation supports and are provided through Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices and InterTrade Ireland.

The first table attached sets out the uptake of the different Brexit-related supports available through the Department and its agencies as at 30 August 2019. Businesses in all counties in Ireland have availed of one or more of these Brexit-related supports.

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.

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. With less than seven weeks to go to Brexit, I urge businesses to accelerate their preparations and avail of the wide range of State supports on offer. In particular, I would appeal to businesses that have not started these preparations to engage with my Department and its agencies as soon as possible.  By taking the necessary practical steps, businesses will be better placed to address the challenges they may face and in doing so, they can help future proof their businesses and continue to trade with the UK and other EU Member States.  I will take this opportunity to outline in more detail the various supports that are available to businesses.

The Local Enterprise Offices

The Local Enterprise Offices [LEOs] are the first-stop-shop for anyone seeking guidance and support on starting or growing their business. The LEOs have organised various events to enable companies to learn about the potential impacts and opportunities of Brexit.

In addition, 702 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit. Technical Assistance Grants for Micro Export are offered as an incentive for LEO clients to explore and develop new market opportunities. 691 LEO clients have been approved for the Technical Assistance Grant.

The Local Enterprise Office 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. 613 Participants have so far attended this Customs Training.

InterTrade Ireland

InterTrade Ireland [ITI] also plays a major role as part of Ireland’s Brexit response and offers Brexit-related advisory services to eligible businesses. So far this year, more than 3,300 SMEs have directly engaged with the Brexit Advisory Service. 

ITI offers a Brexit Start to Plan voucher and Brexit Implementation Voucher schemes, which enables 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 Brexit Start to Plan vouchers are worth up to €2,250 (inclusive of VAT) each. 1,770 businesses have applied for a Brexit Start to Plan voucher, of which over 1,500 have been approved. ITI’s 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.

In August, ITI launched a new advertising campaign and a new online resource to encourage and assist firms in preparing for Brexit. The online “Bitesize Brexit” resource is a one-stop-shop for cross-border traders, presenting information in easily digestible segments and includes specific actions businesses should take in preparing for Brexit.

Brexit Loan Schemes

The Brexit Loan Scheme, launched in March of 2018, 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 6 September, there have been 778 applications for eligibility under the scheme, of which 704 have been approved to date by SBCI. 185 of those applications have progressed to sanction at bank value, to a total value of €41.062 million.

The Future Growth Loan Scheme makes up to €300 million of loans available with a term of 8-10 years. This scheme is available to eligible businesses in Ireland and the primary agriculture (farmers) and seafood sectors to support strategic long-term investment. The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, the scheme operator, opened for eligibility applications on 17th April and up to 30 August it received 1,112 eligibility applications and issued 1,061 eligibility letters.

Enterprise Ireland

Enterprise Ireland [EI] has established a Prepare for Brexit online portal and communications campaign, as well as an online “Brexit SME Scorecard” to help Irish businesses self-asses their exposure to Brexit and a “Be Prepared Grant” to support SME clients in planning to mitigate risks arising from Brexit. It has also launched a new Eurozone Strategy to help SMEs broaden their export footprint beyond the UK.

Over 6,100 business have used Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit Scorecard to date and 85% of EI client firms have a plan in place, while 211 applications for the Be Prepared grant have been approved. 272 EI clients have received funding under its “Act On” programme, which supports the engagement of a consultant to help clients identify weaknesses and improve resilience. EI has also hosted 16 Brexit Advisory Clinics around the country.

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 will be 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 1,500 Customs Insights Course participants.

Enterprise Ireland also recently revealed 12 ‘Brexit Essential’ questions aimed at helping exporting businesses further prepare and take action ahead of the UK’s impending withdrawal from the EU.  The Brexit Essentials campaign highlights the key questions and documentation that businesses need to address in order to trade successfully with the UK post 31 October.

The Irish Government, in association with key industry partners, also launched a new support measure to help customs agents, intermediaries and affected Irish businesses develop the capacity to deal with the additional customs requirements due to the UK’s departure from the EU. The new initiative called Clear Customs comprises of a training programme and a customs financial support to assist with the costs of recruiting and assigning new staff to customs roles.

Supports and advice are also available from the National Standards Authority of Ireland, the Health and Safety Authority, IDA Ireland, Revenue, Skillnet Ireland, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, Bord Bia and Failte Ireland. 

Brexit preparedness supports - uptake of available schemes 30.08.2019

Brexit preparedness supports - expenditure - 20.05.2019