Minister Mitchell O’Connor publishes survey on Irish SMEs views on Brexit
The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor has published the findings of a survey of 1,045 SME business owners which was conducted in January by Behaviour & Attitudes and has set out a number of actions being developed to support SMEs in responding to the challenges of Brexit.
Minister Mitchell O’Connor said: “While the survey results are of a point in time, the findings have helped inform the deliberations of my Department in considering what additional steps may need to be taken to support SMEs impacted by Brexit. Extensive engagement has also been undertaken with stakeholders including the Local Enterprise Offices, Enterprise Ireland, individual businesses and business representative bodies.”
The survey indicated that 49% of companies had experienced no impact on their business from Brexit, and a further 15% had experienced minimal impact. However, when asked to look forward over the next 18 months the percentage expecting no Brexit impact drops to 26%, with 17% (1 in 6) expecting a significant impact.
The Minister for Employment and Small Business, Mr Pat Breen TD, commented: “The survey shows that the types of companies impacted most in the short term are small businesses (5 – 50 employees), those in the border region and those involved in food exports. Non-food exporting companies anticipate that they will be affected more significantly in the long term. The survey highlights the importance for SMEs to be Brexit ready.”
Working capital for firms exporting to the UK and indeed beyond to the EU and other markets has emerged as an issue for companies, as has a need to support competitiveness, innovation and market diversification.
The Minister said: “My department has been working with the Department of Finance, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Enterprise Ireland and the SBCI to build an understanding of the business needs of companies in adapting to the challenges posed by Brexit and to develop appropriate and targeted responses to support them. Based on this work, I recently secured the agreement of the Cabinet Committee for Economy Trade and Jobs to progress the development of a proposed Brexit Working Capital Guarantee Scheme and to scope out the need for a longer term Business Development Loan Scheme which would assist firms in investing for a post-Brexit environment.”
Development of these proposed responses is at an early stage, and is subject to resources being agreed as part of the annual budget process, and with due regards to State aid rules.
The Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation is also exploring the development of a business advisory hub which would assist SMEs to make informed funding/investment decisions and helps them avail of private market solutions or existing State supports. This would build on the existing supports available and the advice and guidance offered by Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices and the Credit Review Office.
Minister Mitchell O’Connor concluded: “Brexit is an ongoing issue and I am conscious that the environment may change as the Brexit negotiations develop. I will continue to listen to the business community and to develop appropriate policy responses to help them in addressing the challenges of Brexit.”