Humphreys urges businesses to tackle Brexit head on

  • 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.

 

Dublin, Ireland, 30th August 2019 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.