Minister Humphreys meets with EU Competition Commissioner Vestager and Intensifies Brexit Preparedness for Enterprise
Ms Heather Humphreys, T.D., Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, today (Thursday, 24th January 2019) met with Ms Margrethe Vestager, the European Commissioner for Competition, in Dublin.
The meeting took place against the background of intensive work by the Minister’s and Commissioner’s officials over the last 18 months examining the options for responding to the impact of Brexit on Irish firms having regard to EU state aid rules.
Minister Humphreys took the opportunity to outline to the Commissioner the extensive analysis and outreach with the enterprise sector which she has led through her Department and agencies.
Minister Humphreys said: “Today was a welcome opportunity to discuss with Commissioner Vestager the serious challenges that Irish businesses, especially SMEs, will face when the UK leaves the European Union. These challenges range from higher costs due to possible tariff imposition and customs delays on imports, to cashflow implications from changed VAT and excise regimes. In relation to exports, challenges include increased time-to-market arising from potential additional customs checks, possible tariffs on certain Irish goods in the UK and the emergence of increased and non-tariff barriers to trade due to regulatory divergence between the EU and the UK markets. These issues would represent a real threat to the sustainability of many firms and jobs.”
The Minister also took the opportunity to outline to the Commissioner the consequences of any disorderly exit on the Irish economy, given the unique nature of Ireland’s trading relationship with the UK, and the impacts in particular in sectors like food and drink, retail, engineering and construction and on regional economies.
The Minister concluded that “The Government will continue to support Irish businesses as they work through these issues. We have agreed that my officials will continue to work closely with the Commissioner’s team in addressing any state aid issues that may arise so that we are prepared to respond rapidly and appropriately as the ultimate shape of Brexit and its firm-level implications become known.”
Earlier today, the Minister also met with key players in Grocery Retail and Distribution as part of her continuing engagement with the sector, to hear directly from them the current status of their Brexit preparedness. Distribution chains within the sector are highly integrated across Ireland and the UK. The Minister’s continued dialogue with this sector reflects the importance that Government attaches to the sector and its recognition of the challenges that it faces, including in a no-deal Brexit scenario. She will continue to engage with the sector on preparatory actions.
The Minister held a further meeting on Wednesday with all of the enterprise and regulatory agencies under her Department’s remit. These agencies are working to support businesses in preparing for Brexit. This regular engagement with the agencies by the Minister aims to ensure that they are appropriately preparing and resourced for the additional regulatory functions and volumes which a no-deal Brexit in particular would generate.
In addition, the Minister received Cabinet approval this week to draft legislation as part of the Government’s Omnibus Bill that will need to be enacted prior to Brexit in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The enterprise elements of the Bill would give Enterprise Ireland greater capacity to provide supports to businesses impacted by Brexit.