More than 70pc of agri-food firms 'failing to prepare'

Damage limitation: Michael Creed says the way business is done must change. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Damage limitation: Michael Creed says the way business is done must change. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Claire Fox and Cormac McQuinn

The possibility of a no-deal Brexit is becoming "increasingly likely", Agriculture Minister Michael Creed has warned.

Mr Creed made the comments at a Getting Brexit Ready event in Co Cork yesterday and said that even if a withdrawal agreement is received it will be a "case of damage limitation" for the agriculture sector.

"It won't be a continuation of business as usual. Brexit by its nature is a significant change in the way we have been doing business with the United Kingdom for the last 40 years," he said.

"It's damage limitation if we get the withdrawal agreement, a transition agreement and a future trading relationship negotiated within that transition period, but it certainly is significant damage if the UK leaves without a deal."

He added there will be "a certain level of tolerance with customs if the UK crash out" on November 1, but warned this tolerance will "diminish quite quickly".

The warning comes as it was revealed that more than 70pc of Irish agri-food businesses have still not applied for an Economic Operators' Registration and Identification (EORI), which will be needed to clear goods through UK customs in the event of Brexit.

Ray Ryan of the Revenue Commissioners urged agri businesses to register.

"In terms of the agri sector itself, 70pc of the agri-food sector is not registered for EORI," he said. "It does seem a stark figure but if you look at the next point on that, there's approximately 2,000 organisations that trade over €100,000 with the UK and 500 of them have not registered, so that's 20pc. These are larger operators with significant trade to the UK that have not taken the first step from a customs point of view," said Mr Ryan.

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Meanwhile, an extra €10m to allow for more micro-loans for small businesses hit by a no-deal Brexit is set to be provided under proposals to be considered by Cabinet today.

And there would be a boost in Enterprise Ireland's ability to provide research and development (R&D) grants and the agency would be able to offer loans for the first time if proposed legislation is passed.

The Irish Independent understands the proposals are being brought by Business Minister Heather Humphreys as part of efforts to enhance the Brexit supports available.

The Industrial Development Bill includes amendments to existing laws to increase Microfinance Ireland's equity cap by €10m to €35m.

The extra €10m is to allow for increased volumes of loans to micro-enterprises most at risk from Brexit.

The measure would only be implemented in the case of a crash-out, hard Brexit.

Irish Independent


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