The long-term response to Brexit is for companies across all sectors to become more competitive, more innovative and to diversify their export footprint into more international markets. The agencies under my Department have a wide range of supports available to enable companies to consolidate market share within the UK, and also to become more resilient by broadening their sales to other international markets.
Enterprise Ireland’s focus is to assist client companies to build on the strength of their 2018 performance by supporting them to start, innovate, be competitive and to diversify their global footprint. In delivering on this, new supports have been introduced, others streamlined, a Global Ambition campaign launched and an intensive programme initiated to support companies to take action and plan for Brexit so that they have the resilience necessary to navigate the challenges and opportunities posed by any kind of Brexit.
The Agency has assisted client companies to increase their exports to a record €22.71 billion in 2017, a growth of 7% compared to 2016’s exporting results. The UK market accounted for 34% of total exports, an increase of 4% on 2016 exporting figures.
The UK is the leading exporting destination for Enterprise Ireland supported companies and is the first export destination for many companies. Despite this, Enterprise Ireland supported companies, including food companies, are increasingly diversifying their global footprint beyond the UK. The proportion of exports to the UK has reduced by 10% over the last ten years, reflecting the success Irish companies are having in substantially increasing and broadening their exports to other international markets.
While Brexit presents an economy wide challenge, a number of exporting sectors are highly exposed to Brexit. In 2017, 1,574 client companies reported exports into the UK. Of this, a group of over 640 are highly exposed to Brexit and predominately span 6 sectors (construction services, construction products, engineering, agriculture machinery, timber, furniture and food). Enterprise Ireland is working intensively with this group to ensure that sustainability and growth plans are developed in line with the agency’s remit.
Enterprise Ireland has a broad range of supports to help companies prepare for Brexit including the Brexit Scorecard, Be Prepared Grant, Advisory Clinics, Agile Innovation Fund, Operational Excellence Offer and Market Discovery Fund. Recently launched EI supports including online Customs Training and Act On Consultancy. Later in February, it is planned that the Local Enterprise Offices will be launching their customs training offering which will be available to all companies. Furthermore, the suite of enterprise supports in place cover a range of potential Brexit impacts. These range from liquidity support through short term and longer term loans, to restructuring aid for businesses in severe operating difficulties, including an EU State aid approved Rescue and Restructure Schemes in place to deal with sudden shocks and an expanded network of overseas offices and in-market supports to help firms diversify markets and to consolidate market share in the UK where appropriate.
While many businesses have taken preparedness actions, a number have yet to do so. It is vital that businesses prepare themselves for Brexit impacts and take actions to mitigate. Firms that do business with the UK, whether buying goods or exporting products, should examine their supply chains to determine their vulnerabilities and take appropriate action.