Jobs Minister says her Department is ready for challenges and opportunities of Brexit
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor has given assurances that challenges and opportunities for enterprise posed by Brexit are a priority for her Department and Agencies.
The Minister was speaking in advance of a major stakeholder engagement event she is hosting in Carrick-on-Shannon on Monday 30th January. The purpose of this event is to facilitate a dialogue with stakeholders about the impacts, challenges and opportunities arising as a result of the UK decision to leave the EU, across the broad range of policy areas for which the Department is responsible.
The Minister also announced 39 extra staff for Enterprise Ireland’s overseas offices and in the Irish based team to support exporting companies in the context of Brexit. Staff will be assigned to:
§ Markets that are growing and have scale (including China, India, Latin America, Africa);
§ Markets where we are already well established but with potential for further growth (including UK, France, Benelux, Germany, USA, the Nordics).
In addition, IDA Ireland will hire 9 additional staff and relaunch their Graduate Programme.
Minister Mitchell O’Connor outlined a range of activity already undertaken by her Department and Agencies, including:
§ Regular Ministerial engagement with companies exporting to the UK to hear directly how Brexit impacts on them. Immediately following the result of the UK vote, the Minister began a series of meetings with key stakeholders, including representative bodies such as SFA, ISME, Chambers, the Irish Exporters Association, IBEC and the British Irish Chamber of Commerce, among others.
§ Completion of a contingency risk assessment of the potential impacts of Brexit across policy areas of the Department – this was undertaken in advance of the referendum result ,and work continues since then to refine these assessments;
§ Establishment of a Coordination Group on Brexit, which the Minister chairs consisting of CEOs of IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, and relevant enterprise, single market and trade officials from the Department to oversee implementation of our response;
§ Establishment of a Senior Officials Group on Brexit to support the Management Board in ensuring a coherent and coordinated approach to Brexit across all areas of the Department.
§ Creation of a dedicated Brexit unit to coordinate the Department’s policy response, including the Department’s approach to negotiations within the EU and bilateral relations with the UK;
§ Minister Mitchell O’Connor participates in the Brexit Cabinet Committee, chaired by the Taoiseach.
§ The Minister has also met with her UK and a number of EU counterparts to stress the unique impact of Brexit on Ireland and plans to continue that engagement. In the coming months, with a series of visits to European capitals to meet her Ministerial counterparts in the coming months
§ Securing of an additional €52 million in Capital funding to support further job creation, innovation and support Irish companies to respond to the challenges and opportunities from Brexit. This represents a 10 % increase in the Department’s capital budget.
Speaking about the important role being played by the Development Agencies, the Minister said: “I have tasked my Department officials with making Brexit their number one priority. Since the UK vote last June I have had particularly intensive engagement with the CEOs of the Agencies to ensure that they are responding to national, UK and EU developments to maximum effect for business. We have a clear plan of action and are fully committed to supporting business to deal with the challenges and opportunities posed by the UK exit from the EU.”
The Minister continued, “Enterprise Ireland and the LEOs are working steadily with companies to ensure they are prepared to respond to challenges. I have put in place a structured dialogue with companies of different sizes, across different sectors and regions. This involves focus groups and a survey of a thousand businesses. I expect the results of this comprehensive survey to be with me in the next week. This will give me a clear evidence base in terms of what SMEs want and need”.
The Minister said it is important not to lose sight of, and capitalise on, opportunities emerging for Ireland as a result of UK withdrawing from the EU: “Ireland’s value proposition remains strong including, in particular, our continued membership of the EU and access to the Single Market. We are very much open for business. I’ve secured additional funding to IDA Ireland to help them target key markets and secure investments.”
John Halligan TD, Minister of State for Training, Skills and Innovation, will also attend the event and address the challenges in the research, development and innovation space as a result of Brexit. Minister Halligan said, “Investment in innovation is critical to creating and sustaining a knowledge economy. Ireland is one of the leading Research, Development and Innovation locations in the world. We offer an ideal commercial, political and social environment for companies to carry out successful and profitable RDI activities. The Government has committed to a target of investing 2.5% of GNP in R&D and delivering on this will be even more critical in the context of the UK decision to leave the EU.
There is no doubt there are challenges associated with Brexit but I believe there are also opportunities. While the UK is an important partner for us in Horizon 2020(the EU Framework Programme for Research & Innovation), we are well diversified in international collaboration through Horizon 2020 having strong partnerships in particular, with Germany, Spain and France. There are opportunities for us to build stronger alliances with other Member States as well as continuing bilateral research collaboration with the UK which we do outside our EU membership.”