Minister Humphreys urges businesses to tackle Brexit head on
30th August 2019
• Minister appeals to businesses to act now to help protect themselves and their workers
• State supports can provide assurance and confidence
• Appeal made on a visit to Keelings, a family-owned business who have used a number of State supports to help them in their Brexit preparations
• Keelings employ over 2,300 people and sell produce in 12 countries including Ireland, the UK, China, Sweden and France
With less than 9 weeks to go to Brexit, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, today directly appealed to businesses to accelerate their preparations and urged them to avail of the wide range of State supports on offer to help them do so.
The Minister made the appeal on a visit to Keelings, who have been engaged in extensive preparations for Brexit since 2016. In these preparations, the company availed of State supports including the Enterprise Ireland Brexit SME Scorecard and the Act On initiative, as well as attending a customs information event. Employing over 2,300 people, Keelings is a major employer in the north Dublin region, growing €30m worth of produce on 500 acres. The group sells produce in 12 countries, including Ireland, the UK, China, Sweden and France.
The Government’s suite of Brexit supports include preparedness vouchers and consultancy and mentoring supports, tariff advisory services, research on new markets and innovation supports through Enterprise Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices and InterTrade Ireland, as well as two loan schemes, the €300m Brexit Loan Scheme and the €300m Future Growth Loan Scheme. Supports and advice are also available from the National Standards Authority of Ireland, the Health and Safety Authority, IDA Ireland, Revenue, Skillnet Ireland, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, Bord Bia and Failte Ireland.
The Minister strongly urged businesses to familiarise themselves with these supports. She also urged them to look at their supply chains, customs procedures, certification, and standards and licensing processes; consider currency volatility; and register with customs for an EORI number.
Speaking directly to businesses, Minister Humphreys said:
“Through no fault of our own, our country has been faced with an economic and political hurdle that poses real risks to the future of our businesses and ultimately Irish jobs. It is extremely frustrating for businesses that at this late hour, we still can’t say when and in which circumstances the UK will leave the EU.
“I fully accept that the lack of clarity complicates our Brexit contingency planning. I also accept that it is incredibly difficult for businesses to plan for a situation that remains so unclear. Notwithstanding this, there are certain steps you can take now.
“As things stand today, a crash-out is less than 9 weeks away, and while we hope it never comes to that, we can’t afford to take any risks. Against this backdrop, I am appealing to you to act now to help protect your business and your employees.
“We have developed a wide range of supports to help you put a plan in place. Keelings are a leading Irish brand and a family-owned company, who have availed of a number of these supports, so please visit www.gov.ie/Brexit to see how we can help you.
“We cannot become paralysed by Brexit. We must continue to plan ahead, focus on what is within our control domestically, and be the masters of our own destiny. It’s time to tackle this thing head on. Together, we will face this.”
Caroline Keeling, CEO of Keelings, said:
"Once we realised there was a potential for a no-deal Brexit, Keelings undertook a risk assessment for the business, engaging with Bord Bia's risk diagnostic tool.
Throughout the last year the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation, Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia have been of great assistance to Keelings in preparing for Brexit through consultation, conferences and training. More specifically, we availed of Enterprise Ireland's "Customs and Logistics Consultation service" who worked closely with Keelings over the last 12 months in helping to de-risk our supply chain from a no-deal Brexit and also successfully helping Keeling's to achieve AEO Certification.
As a fresh produce company, supply chain speed is vitally important to our business. While maintaining the UK land-bridge is critically important, we have planned for a series of contingency transport routes throughout mainland European ports, to ensure we maintain customer service and freshness."
The most immediate consequences of a hard Brexit are likely to be currency movements, supply chain constraints, delays, duties and tariffs. In the first instance, this will put a strain on the working capital position of businesses. One of the Government’s suite of supports is the €300m Brexit Loan Scheme, which is designed to address working capital challenges brought about by Brexit. Under the Scheme, loans of up to €1.5 million are available at a rate of 4% or less, with loans of up to €500,000 available on an unsecured basis. Similarly, the €300m Future Growth Loan Scheme is designed to support strategic long-term investment in SMEs in a post-Brexit environment.
Minister Humphreys continued:
“These are loans that must be repaid, so naturally businesses will be reluctant to take on debt in advance of Brexit. That is understandable, but I want to be very clear that you are under no obligation to draw down a loan if you apply for one.
“Eligibility remains valid for 4 months under the Brexit Loan Scheme, and 6 months under the Future Growth Loan Scheme. Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not you proceed, so my strong advice is to apply now and decide later. You could be very relieved to have the option there in a few months’ time.”
Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland said:
“The UK continues to be one of the largest export markets for indigenous Irish companies. Enterprise Ireland has been working to prepare Irish businesses for the potential challenges posed by Brexit by helping them to assess their preparedness and helping them to implement practical action plans in areas such as customs, supply chain and sourcing, and financial management.
“Close to 90% of our clients, like Keelings, have now taken Brexit-specific actions. In order to continue to grow their businesses after Brexit, Irish businesses need to look at opportunities in the areas of innovation, market diversification and competitiveness. Our focus is on supporting our clients to strategically strengthen so that they can enter a “post Brexit world” in a stronger position.”
Altogether the Government has held over 100 Brexit information seminars and events since last September. Minister Humphreys has been convening regular roundtable discussions with the main retail grocery and distribution players since December to better understand contingency planning within the sector on food supply. Revenue, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Dublin Port and relevant Government Departments also attend these meetings.
Separately, her Department has had ongoing engagement with the retail sector on Brexit since 2016, mainly through the Retail Consultation Forum, which the Minister chairs. Membership of the Forum includes retail associations like Retail Ireland Retail Excellence, CSNA, RGDATA, other bodies like ISME, SFA and Chambers Ireland, a number of retailers, the City and County Managers Association, and relevant Government Departments.
The Minister also chairs the wider Brexit Consultation Forum and continues to host a series of Brexit information meetings in the Border Region in collaboration with the Accountancy Bodies of Ireland.
Notes to the Editor:
Brexit supports for Business
Local Enterprise Office
- Brexit Mentor Programme
- Prepare Your Business for Customs Workshop
- Technical Assistance for Micro-Exporters (TAME)
- Brexit Start to Plan Voucher (€2,250)
- Brexit Implementation Voucher
- Brexit Advisory Service
- Brexit Advisory Clinics
- Prepare for Brexit online portal
- Brexit SME scorecard
- Be Prepared Grant
- Act On Programme
- Customs Insights Online course
- Currency Impact Calculator
- Market Discovery Fund
Competition and Consumer Protection Commission
- Guidance for Brexit and your business
- Brexit seminars
- Customs and Import duty Information and information on other Brexit implications
- EORI numbers registration
- Brexit Preparedness Checklist
- Brexit Loan Scheme
- Future Growth Loan Scheme
- MicroFinance Ireland Loans
• Bord Bia’s Brexit Barometer
Health and Safety Authority
- Support service for Irish chemical companies
- Advice on accreditation matters through Irish National Accreditation Board (INAB)
National Standards Authority of Ireland
- Advice on how best to ensure businesses are certified to appropriate standards to access markets
- Fáilte Ireland’s Brexit Response Programme
Government Action on Brexit
Following the publication of the latest Brexit Contingency Action Plan Update last month, the most recent Government steps regarding no deal preparations include:
- Revenue are issuing their second round of direct engagement to businesses identified as being potentially at risk from Brexit. Further to the 84,000 letters issued earlier this year, this round involves another direct communication via post identifying the company’s potential financial exposure to the UK market and the steps they need to take, further supported by direct calls to businesses to follow up on the letter with any queries they may have. In this phase, nearly 27,000 letters have issued and 10,000 businesses have been spoken with on the phone by a Revenue agent.
- The Clear Customs initiative is helping Irish businesses trading with or through the UK in preparing for new customs formalities arising from Brexit. Developed by Skillnet and Enterprise Ireland on behalf of the Government, Clear Customs offers eligible customs agents, customs intermediaries and affected businesses a free training programme from Skillnet to build capacity in the customs sector, as well as a potential €6,000 from Enterprise Ireland grant to help build in-house capacity. It is important that all businesses determine their customs declaration processes, build internal expertise and install relevant software or secure the services of a customs agent.
- Bord Bia, BIM and Fáilte Ireland, among other agencies, are also working closely with businesses in the food, fisheries and tourism sectors on Brexit preparedness.
- The Beef Exceptional Aid Measure recently opened for applications and will provide financial aid to Irish beef farmers facing difficult circumstances as a result of market volatility and uncertainty arising out of Brexit.
- Ongoing Government events around the country, including Government outreach at the Virginia and Tullamore Shows, specifically targeted for the agrifood sector.
- Planning for the National Ploughing Championships where Brexit preparations will be a major feature.
The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) plays a key role in implementing the Government’s policies of stimulating the productive capacity of the economy and creating an environment which supports job creation and maintenance. The Department has lead responsibility for Irish policy on global trade and inward investment and a remit to promote fair competition in the marketplace, protect consumers and safeguard workers.
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