My Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advisory resources to ensure that businesses nationwide are prepared for Brexit. While we cannot yet know the form that Brexit will take, these measures aim to assist businesses in identifying key risk areas and practical preparatory actions regardless of the circumstances of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
InterTradeIreland’s [ITI] Brexit Advisory Service provides a focal point for SMEs working to navigate any changes in cross-border trading relationships arising as a result of Brexit. As part of this service, ITI has organised a series of awareness-raising events. So far, more than 5,300 SMEs have directly engaged with the Brexit Advisory Service this year.
ITI’s Brexit Planning Voucher aims to enable businesses to seek professional advice on how best to plan and prepare for Brexit. This support helps businesses obtain advice on specific areas such as tariffs, currency management, and regulatory and customs issues. Vouchers are worth up to €2,250 (inclusive of VAT) each. To date, 2,064 applications have been submitted for the Voucher, 1,780 of which have been approved. The ITI Brexit Implementation Voucher offers further financial support to implement Brexit plans.
The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) have organised various events to enable companies to learn about the potential impacts and opportunities of Brexit. The LEOs also offer customs training workshops, and a number of other schemes to help businesses prepare for Brexit. To date, more than 1,200 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit. The LEOs also offer customs training workshops. To date, there have been more than 1,500 training participants.
The Brexit Loan Scheme provides relatively short-term working capital, up to three years, to eligible businesses to mitigate their Brexit challenges. To date, there have been 898 eligibility applications received, of which 810 have been approved and 214 loans progressed to sanction to a value of €46.68 million.
The Future Growth Loan Scheme facilitates longer-term investment, for terms of 8-10 years, for a post-Brexit environment. To date, 535 firms have been approved loans by Bank of Ireland, KBC and Ulster Bank, to a total value of €101.2 million. AIB recently began offering loans under the scheme and have a pipeline of applications from SBCI.
While I am pleased to have seen a positive uptake of the range of Brexit supports available, I am also conscious that the lasting uncertainty around the Brexit process may be leading businesses to defer their Brexit preparations. The UK’s exit from the EU will bring change for Irish businesses and I want businesses, particularly those around the Border counties to know my Department and agencies are here to help.