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's ongoing engagement with businesses indicates that the proportion of businesses preparing for Brexit is increasing, particularly among those businesses identified as most exposed to Brexit-related impacts, and that awareness of the key Brexit challenges is also increasing. Almost 60% of Irish SMEs report a good understanding of the likely implications of Brexit impacts that are relevant to their business. The findings of our latest research suggest that planning for Brexit is increasing with almost 50% of SMEs taking some form of active engagement (up from 42% in 2018) in the form of planning or any other mitigating steps. Among the most impacted businesses, progress is also being made, for example more than half of exporters indicate that they have a Brexit plan. Among Enterprise Ireland clients, 85% have taken action in respect of Brexit.
Over the last two years my Department has worked to raise awareness of the key Brexit challenges which include supply chain, tariffs, customs, regulatory standards, working capital and movement of labour, goods and services; to build business preparedness levels; and to put a comprehensive set of supports in place for businesses. My Department and I have been active in the promotion of schemes and supports 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.
While there is little clarity on the means by which the UK will leave the EU in October, my Department and its agencies are working to provide extensive supports to ensure that businesses across the country are prepared for the UK’s exit from the EU, whatever the circumstances of its departure. Evidence now shows a marked increase in the number of impacted businesses preparing for change, which is both encouraging and welcome but I am conscious that the delays to Brexit may have led some businesses to defer their immediate planning. However, the UK’s exit from the EU will mean changes for Irish businesses and I want businesses to know that my Department and its agencies are here to help.