My Department and its agencies are working to provide extensive supports, schemes and advice to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit. These measures aim to assist businesses in Cork and across the Country in identifying key risk areas and the practical preparatory actions to be taken over the coming weeks.
The Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), including LEOs in Cork, are the first-stop-shop for anyone seeking guidance and support on starting or growing their business. 471 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit.
The LEOs engage in a number of other schemes to help companies prepare for Brexit. Technical Assistance Grants for Micro Export are offered as an incentive for LEO clients to explore and develop new market opportunities. Also, additional capital funding of €5 million was announced in Budget 2019 for local enterprise development.
In addition, both South and North Cork LEOs have organised Brexit Proof Your Business workshops in November 2018. This workshop was designed to bring into sharp perspective what Brexit may mean for SMEs.
The InterTrade Ireland 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 the service, ITI has organized awareness events focused on improving knowledge of customs processes and procedures.
ITI also offers a Brexit Start to Plan voucher scheme, which enables businesses to get professional advice on how best to plan and prepare for the UK's withdrawal from the European Union.
In April 2017, I met with all the Regional Action Plan for Jobs Implementation Committees, including from the South West and asked that they undertake a refresh and refocus of their Plans to ensure relevance and impact out to 2020. I will be launching the refreshed South West Plan over the coming weeks and I am confident it will contribute to ensuring we continue to deliver jobs and address the challenges we face in building potential, including Brexit.
Enterprise Ireland 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. EI has also hosted a Brexit Advisory Clinic in Cork in April 2018.
EI also recently launched a new Customs Insights Online course which 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 €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme provides relatively short term working capital, 1-3 years, to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees to help them innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges.
The scheme was launched in March 2018 and, as at close of business on 18th January, there have been 376 eligibility applications received of which 337 eligibility applications have been approved and 65 loans progressed to sanction at Bank level to a value of €14.9m. SMEs in County Cork account for 9% of approvals.
The Future Growth Loan Scheme was announced in Budget 2019. The scheme will provide a longer-term facility, 8 to 10 years, of up to €300m to support strategic capital investment for a post-Brexit environment by business at competitive rates. Loans of €50,000 to €3m will be available to eligible Irish businesses, including those in the primary agriculture and seafood sectors, to support strategic, long-term investment in a post-Brexit environment. It is expected that this Scheme will be launched by end Q1 2019.
My Department and I have been very active in the 'Getting Ireland Brexit Ready' public information campaign. Officials from my Department and agencies also participated in the Getting Ireland Brexit Ready event in Cork on Friday 5 October last, which included Enterprise Ireland, IDA, the LEOs, NSAI and the HSA.
We are providing extensive supports, schemes and advice to ensure that businesses are prepared for any Brexit scenario, with Brexit around the corner, I want businesses to know my Department and agencies are here to help.