Enterprise Ireland has paid out more than €120 million in supports for companies severely impacted by Brexit, chief executive Julie Sinnamon has told an Oireachtas committee.
Speaking before the committee on the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, Ms Sinnamon said 615 client companies employing 47,000 people are exposed to Brexit.
She said the impact on trade flows and further potential barriers resulting from the full phasing in of checks and controls over the coming year “remains uncertain”.
She also said that while the State agency has been helping client companies to diversify away from Britain, many Irish exporters still see opportunities in trading with our nearest neighbour.
Britain remains the largest export market for Irish companies. Last year Enterprise Ireland client companies reported €7.9 billion in exports there, equivalent to 31 per of all exports.
Ms Sinnamon told TDs and Senators that client companies were adjusting to the new trading environment, albeit with challenges in the form of increased costs, delays and supply chain uncertainty.
“While the increased in direct connectivity to the European continent is welcomed and the response of the shipping industry in increasing capacity was unprecedented, the use of the UK landbridge still represents a preferred option for many companies due to its strategic advantages of speed and cost for companies.”
Ms Sinnamon outlined many of the supports provided to clients exposed to Brexit, and highlighted successes in terms of market diversification. Client exports to the euro zone, for example, rose from €4.1 billion in 2015 to €5.6 billion in 2019.
“Enterprise Ireland companies are optimistic about future market opportunities in the UK market. Irish enterprise has proved many times over in every corner of the world their flexibility, innovative capability and resilience, and will find a way through to recover and grow. The UK market will continue to be a key part of this,” she said.
Ms Sinnamon is shortly to step down as chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, to be replaced by Leo Clancy, currently head of technology, consumer and business services at IDA Ireland.