- Agri-food construction products and engineering sectors critical to local economy
With growing concerns about Brexit and the implications for our economy the Government must put in place comprehensive supports for sectors that are vulnerable to market disturbances.
Over the past 20 years, particularly since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, there has been a very welcome development in increasing cross-border trade and there is a huge inter-dependence North and South in certain sectors such as agri-food.
A no deal Brexit would cause huge difficulties for such sectors and particularly for the border economy and the Government must implement appropriate measures.
Below is a reply by the Enterprise Minister to a Parliamentary Question I tabled in Dáil Éireann –
For Oral Answer on : 31/01/2019
Question Number(s): 15 Question Reference(s): 4668/19
Department: Business, Enterprise and Innovation
Asked by: Brendan Smith T.D.
To ask the Minister for Business; Enterprise and Innovation her plans to provide specific assistance to businesses in the Border region in the agri-food construction products and engineering sectors to maintain existing employment due to the difficulties that will arise for such sectors due to Brexit and their dependence on the Northern Ireland and British markets to export products to; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
My Department and its agencies are providing extensive supports, schemes and advice to assist businesses in identifying key risk areas and the practical preparatory actions to be taken over the coming weeks. I am very aware of the specific vulnerabilities of key sectors such as agri-food, construction products and engineering sectors to Brexit, and no more so than in the Border counties.
The Regional Enterprise Plans are crucial in meeting the Government’s ambition to create an additional 200,00 jobs, of which 135,000 are outside the Dublin region, by 2020. The first North-East/North-West Regional Action Plan for Jobs was launched on the 30th November 2015, and the refreshed plans for the North-East and North-West will have separate Regional Enterprise Plans and both of these will launch on the 25th February 2019.
My Department and I have been very active in the ‘Getting Ireland Brexit Ready’ public information campaign, including a recent event held in Monaghan in October where I was delighted to welcome many businesses from the Border region. Officials from my Department and agencies also participated in the Getting Ireland Brexit Ready event in Letterkenny in Donegal on Friday 30 November last, which included Enterprise Ireland, Industrial Development Authority (IDA), the Local Enterprise Office’s (LEOs), National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) and the Health & Safety Authority (HSA). Last week, the Revenue Commissioners held a seminar in Dundalk. The seminar focused on customs requirements, procedures and operation of the UK landbridge and transit arrangements. This week the NSAI hosted Brexit information events in Cavan, Monaghan and Sligo and further events are being planned by my Department and agencies. The NSAI plays an important standards and certification function for the construction products and engineering sectors, so these events in the Border area are very beneficial.
Enterprise Ireland has a wide range of supports available and are actively engaged with companies in helping them to prepare.
As part of Budget 2019, I allocated an additional €1million to InterTradeIreland (ITI). The ITI Brexit Advisory Service provides a focal point for SMEs working to navigate any changes in cross-border trading post-Brexit. ITI also offers a Brexit Start to Plan voucher scheme, worth up to €2,250, for professional advice on preparing for Brexit.
The LEOs in the Border regions are the first-stop-shop for anyone seeking guidance and support on starting or growing their business and preparing for Brexit. Some 402 LEO clients benefitted from one-to-one Brexit mentoring. I allocated additional capital funding of €5 million in Budget 2019 to the LEOs to step-up their Brexit preparedness work.
In addition, the six LEOs in the Border region are working together with their Northern Ireland counterparts under the EU Co-Innovate Programme, to help firms to innovate, differentiate and compete.
In December, I announced Call 2 of the competitive Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF). Taking the first and second calls of the REDF together, the Border region has seven successful projects with a total funding allocation of more than €10.6 million.
The €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme provides working capital for up to three years, to eligible businesses to mitigate their Brexit challenges. The Brexit Future Growth Loan Scheme was announced in Budget 2019 and will provide a longer-term facility, 8 to 10 years, of up to €300m to support strategic capital investment for a post-Brexit.
Last week I announced the Enterprise Ireland Annual Results where every region in Ireland recorded increases in employment, including a 9% increase in the North West and a 3% increase in the North East. Over 23,700 of the 215,207 employed in supported companies are in the Border region. Some of the recent EI jobs announcements for the region have included 90 new jobs in E & I Engineering in Donegal and 200 new jobs in Combilift in Co. Monaghan.
I also recently launched a new Customs online training support to help all businesses understand how customs work.