Sunday 22 September 2019

Ibec insists State must press EU for Brexit help

'Prepare for the worst' - Humphreys

Provisions: Ibec economist Gerard Brady says schemes need to be put in place for a no-deal scenario
Provisions: Ibec economist Gerard Brady says schemes need to be put in place for a no-deal scenario

David Chance

The iRISH Government is still chasing EU concessions in order to be able to provide greater support to businesses hit hardest by a potential crash-out Brexit.

Earlier this year, Cork-based Carbery Group, makers of Dubliner cheddar cheese, became the first company in Europe to benefit from approval to get state support to ride out the effects of Brexit.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

While it set a precedent, the Department of Business and Enterprise is still working with European Commission officials on a wider exemption from EU State Aid rules that may be needed to help companies survive an economic shock.

In the meantime, Business Minister Heather Humphreys told businesses to "prepare for the worst possible scenario" yesterday. Her department's prepareforbrexit.com website provides details of supports and advice that are available.

Meanwhile, officials said the Government is trying to secure concession from the EU ahead of the Brexit deadline on October 31.

"Engagement is ongoing between the Irish officials of the State Aid Technical Working Group and officials at [the] Directorate General for Competition in addressing any State aid issues that may arise to ensure a rapid and appropriate response to any Brexit scenario," the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation told the Irish Independent.

Although issues around state aid are highly sensitive, Government needs to move urgently, business group Ibec has urged.

Without measures allowing it to support companies through a crisis, there is a real risk companies would go to the wall and jobs would be lost forever, Ibec said.

"It is imperative that the upcoming Budget include provisions for new and far-reaching state aid supports to assist vulnerable companies and protect jobs in impacted sectors," Ibec's chief economist Gerard Brady said.

"This will require a temporary state aid framework at EU level and a number of complex schemes to be put in place."

Brexit will hit the kind of small firms that are least equipped to deal with it disproportionately hard.

Mr Brady noted that many of Ibec's larger members have "spent millions already on expensive contingency plans for a no-deal scenario".

Small firms in many cases lack the resources or expertise for complex planning.

Northern Ireland's Department for the Economy estimates that there are 11,000 firms involved in cross-border import and export and that 98.8pc of these are small and medium-sized enterprises.

Despite seeing over one million cross-border deliveries in 2015, InterTradeIreland, a body that promotes an all-island economy, has warned that as many as 82pc of cross-border traders have not prepared for a "no deal".

Irish Independent

Also in Business