While the nature of the UK's departure from the EU still remains to be determined, Brexit continues to represent a significant challenge for businesses in Ireland. That is why my Department and its agencies have put in place extensive supports, schemes and advisory resources to ensure that businesses are prepared for Brexit. While we cannot yet know the form that Brexit will take, these measures aim to raise awareness and, where appropriate, to assist businesses in identifying key risk areas and practical preparatory actions regardless of the circumstances of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
My Department and I have been active in the promotion of these schemes through participation in different campaigns, including the whole-of-Government 'Getting Ireland Brexit Ready' public information campaign. This campaign features workshop events throughout the country, aimed primarily at business and people most impacted by Brexit. In addition to these, Enterprise Ireland has also rolled out a series of Brexit Advisory Clinics to help businesses across the country to better understand their exposure to Brexit and the mitigating actions available to them.
This campaign also includes a Government of Ireland website, gov.ie/Brexit, which outlines the likely impacts of Brexit on businesses in Ireland, information on how to mitigate those impacts, and a calendar of upcoming Brexit-related events for businesses.
The network of 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) is a first-stop-shop for anyone seeking guidance and support on starting or growing their business. The LEOs have organised various events to enable businesses to learn about the potential impacts and opportunities of Brexit. So far, 641 LEO clients have received one-to-one mentoring solely focused on Brexit. As of February 2019, the LEOs are offering customs training workshops to support businesses trading with third countries in advance of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
The Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, which operates the Brexit Loan Scheme and the Future Growth Loan Scheme, continues to actively promote these schemes, both at its own events and through participation in other Brexit-related events. The SBCI also launched its first awareness campaign on its YouTube channel and since its publication the BLS explainer video has been seen more than 371,000 times.
Enterprise Ireland has established a Prepare for Brexit online portal and communications campaign. This portal also features an online “Brexit SME Scorecard” to help Irish businesses self-assess their exposure to Brexit and an online customs training tool aimed at businesses dealing with customs for the first time.
InterTradeIreland works with SMEs on an all-island basis and is particularly well placed, given its remit to develop cross-border trade, to help SMEs prepare for the particular North-South challenges associated with Brexit. The ITI Brexit Advisory Service serves as a focal point for SMEs working to navigate the 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 focused on providing knowledge of customs procedures and identifying actions that can be taken in areas such as logistics and supply chain management. To date, more than 7,000 SMEs have directly engaged with the Brexit Advisory Service.
ITI also offers a Brexit Planning Voucher scheme, which enables businesses to seek professional advice on how best to plan and prepare for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. This support helps businesses obtain advice on specific areas, such as tariffs, currency management and customs issues. The scheme and the Brexit advisory service have been publicised through a campaign including promotion at Brexit-related events and through national radio.
My Department has also produced a number of leaflets and booklets outlining the different Government supports available to Irish businesses. Among these is the "Quick Brexit Guide for Business", which includes information on the range of Brexit supports available to businesses, their eligibility criteria and how to access them. Also relevant is "Currency Risk Management for Irish SMEs" a guide which seeks to answer many of the questions that businesses may have when assessing and managing their exposure to foreign currency risk.
My Department is preparing to publish a more detailed document providing an overview of the broad range of different Government supports available to businesses in Ireland, including the various Brexit supports available.