My Department has been working closely with the EU Commission and DG Competition since November 2017 through the Irish/EU Technical Working Group on State Aid. The Group comprises representatives from DG Comp, my Department, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and Enterprise Ireland. The objective of the Group has been to scope and design schemes to support enterprises impacted by Brexit in line with State Aid rules. This includes exploring all opportunities under EU Regulation No. 1407/2013 (De Minimis Regulation).
Through the mechanism of the Technical Working Group Ireland has fully utilised the provisions of the State aid framework to enable the investment by Enterprise Ireland of €74 million in Brexit impacted businesses in 2018. Options available through the Agriculture Guidelines are also being developed to support large food companies.
State Aid approval was received in February for capital investment by Enterprise Ireland in an Irish cheese producing company, Carbery Food Ingredients Ltd, to help the company towards financing a €65m diversification project to mitigate the impacts of Brexit, and dialogue is ongoing with the Commission to obtain State aid approval for a scheme to support the transformation of companies in the food processing sector.
On 24th January 2019, I met with the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager. The meeting focused on the severe challenges that Irish businesses will face as a result of Brexit and the need for appropriate and timely State supports. It was agreed that Irish officials will continue to work closely with the Commissioner's team in addressing any State Aid issues that may arise, including the De Minimis Regulation No. 1407/2013, to ensure a rapid and appropriate response as the firm-level implications of Brexit become known. The Commissioner has emphasised that the Commission stands ready to act urgently in mitigation against the impacts of Brexit on Irish firms, and my officials continue to work with DG Competition, as part of the Technical Working Group.