10 January 2019
By Mary Bermingham
Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Business, Enterprise & Innovation Billy Kelleher says he is concerned that by the lack of urgency with which the government is activating contingency plans to protect exposed businesses from a hard Brexit.
A series of Parliamentary Question replies reveal that the government has yet to formally make a request at EU level for changes to be made to State aid ceilings to protect Irish enterprises and exporting companies from a no-deal Brexit scenario.
Deputy Kelleher said, “The March 29th deadline is fast approaching and I am very concerned that the government does not appear to realise how urgently contingency plans are needed. While Minister Heather Humphreys talks about a Technical Working Group on State aid being established between her department, Enterprise Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and DG Competition, this body is only examining Brexit support schemes within current State aid rules.
“The government appears to have made no application to the EU to change the State aid ceilings, as it is entitled to do under Article 107 of the EU Treaties, which empowers the Commission to declare State aid compatible with the common market “to remedy a serious disturbance in the economy of a Member State”.
“If this article was invoked, the government would be able to introduce a higher level of grant aid for support schemes to vulnerable export businesses in exposed sectors. Given that we are facing the real prospect of a no-deal Brexit; this represents a colossal disturbance to the Irish economy.
“Ireland should immediately seek approval at EU level for current State aid rules to be adapted for a temporary period.
“It is extremely worrying that the government has failed to apply to the EU for a change in the rules, however, even at this late stage it would make a huge difference to small and medium businesses that need every effort to be made to secure support for them to protect them from a hard Brexit”.