Speaking on Monday following a meeting with the European Investment Bank Group (EIB) and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) to counter-guarantee the €300m loan fund, Minister Creed said the scheme will provide affordable flexible working capital financing to Irish SMEs and mid-caps that are either currently impacted by Brexit or who will be in the coming period.

“It will give those businesses time and space to adapt and to grow into the future.

“Given their unique exposure to the UK market, my Department’s funding ensures that at least 40% of the €300m scheme will be available to food businesses.”

Food businesses will need to focus on competitiveness and innovation in order to continue the growth in Irish agri-food exports, which reached a record €13.5bn in 2017.

“I believe that supporting lower-cost flexible finance is a key Government response to assist the sector in this process.”

In last October’s budget, €14m was secured by the then Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, together with €9m by the Minister for Agriculture, for the €23m for the Brexit Loan Scheme.

The signing of the counter guarantee agreement means that the total amount of €23m can be leveraged to provide €300m to Irish businesses affected by Brexit.

The scheme will be open to eligible businesses with up to 499 employees from March 2018, with the potential to benefit over 5,000 companies.

Impact of Brexit

Meanwhile, three quarters of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) expect to be impacted by Brexit in the next 19 months, a new survey has found.

Launching the results of the survey, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys urged businesses to make a Brexit plan.

The behaviours and attitudes (B&A) survey, which was conducted last autumn, found that while 75% of SMEs expect to be impacted by Brexit over the next 18 months, only 16% of SMEs have a formal Brexit contingency plan.

Minister Humphreys said: “The first step is to identify the lead person in your organisation who can assess potential impacts and scenarios and write your Brexit contingency plan.

“My Department has a number of supports in place to help companies to develop their plans, including the Enterprise Ireland Brexit SME Scorecard and the Be Prepared Grant of up to €5,000.”

The B&A survey asked businesses about how they are responding to Brexit and what financial supports they need in order to respond. The survey found that almost half of the firms were not investing in their businesses.

When asked why, Brexit uncertainty is cited as a key reason. Furthermore, 21% of medium-sized businesses have postponed at least one investment decision in reaction to Brexit.

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