With less than nine weeks to go to Brexit, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys has 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.
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 Humphries said,
“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.”