Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to

Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Consequential Provisions) Bill 2019: Committee Stage (Continued)

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 91 Next Page Last Page

  8 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys] All of our supports are kept under constant review and we have had no feedback to say there are gaps. We have dealt with any change that has been requested. For example, I regularly meet the business representative bodies. I have met the retailers and food importers to ensure the security of our food supply. I also meet all departmental agencies. A request regarding import VAT of 23% was brought to my attention. I raised the matter with the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, who has made changes in this Bill to address the issue of paying VAT at the point of import. It would have had significant cashflow implications for businesses, but the change will be of major benefit to them.

It is not necessary to legislate for a review of these supports. We review them constantly to determine whether there are gaps.

Regarding the Brexit stabilisation fund, we achieved agreement with the European Commission last week on increasing the rescue and restructuring safety net for SMEs to €200 million. We have close engagement with the Commissioner. She is well aware of the challenges facing this country and has assured us that the Commission will do everything it can to assist us.

I have covered most of the issues raised. For the reasons outlined, I cannot support these amendments. It is not necessary to insert in legislation the requirement to carry out a review. We work with all of the bodies involved and I meet businesses on a daily basis. For example, I attended an InterTradeIreland event yesterday. A large number of businesses were there. They are availing of the many supports that exist. I encourage people who have not yet engaged to do so. The Government is here to help and we want to help businesses in preparing for Brexit.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I ask Deputies to observe the clock.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane The Minister's response was underwhelming. She did not deal with most of my points, including that on state aid rules. She stated that the Commissioner was aware that Ireland faced challenges and gave her assurances, but we need more than assurances from Brussels and the Commissioner. For a long time, we were told by the Tánaiste and other Ministers that a suite of bespoke solutions would be made available to this State beyond what would be available to other member states, as they would not be as adversely affected economically as us, given the close relationship between the Irish and British economies and how we are more exposed than any other member state. Nothing in these provisions strays outside of current state aid rules. There is no additionality that any other member state is unable to avail of.

The Minister is living in cloud cuckoo land if she believes that the different sectoral groups in the business community view the supports in place as adequate for a hard crash. We have met the groups as well. We have presented our proposals, which have been well received. The groups have sought significant changes to state aid rules. They recognise that we must increase capital spending at ports-----

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys We are doing that.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane -----and investment in public transport if we are to make ourselves competitive. Nothing of any significance in that regard is being done.

Deputy Heather Humphreys: Information on Heather Humphreys Zoom on Heather Humphreys It is being done.

Deputy David Cullinane: Information on David Cullinane Zoom on David Cullinane I disagree with the Minister's analysis of the Brexit loan scheme. She stated that 430 companies had applied and 81 had been successful and would benefit. Only 430 companies have applied. What about those that have not? Businesses tell us that they cannot engage with the scheme because it is too cumbersome and needs to be overhauled. The Government has not dealt with that issue. Only 81 out of the 430 have progressed to the point of being able to avail of the scheme. That is not enough.

I can see nothing in this Bill for the agrifood sector apart from what is available for everyone else. There are no bespoke supports for it.

I am flabbergasted that we have debated supports for the SME sector and there has been no contribution whatsoever from Fianna Fáil. It is obvious that Fianna Fáil believes that the Government is doing a great job in supporting SMEs and that, if there is a hard crash, everything the Government is putting in place will be enough. Many SMEs will be disgusted that one of the larger political parties has offered no contribution to this debate on the additional supports that business requires. It is a dereliction of responsibility by Fianna Fáil.

That party might be keeping the Minister in her job, but she is the one responsible for putting in place a suite of measures for businesses. She has missed the point entirely. She rattled off the supports that were in place. I have already conceded that they are in place - we do not believe they are enough or adequate - but the additional supports being sought all have to do with a hard crash. She is missing that point. Businesses, in particular exporting SMEs that are most exposed because they have a strong trading relationship with Britain, need these supports now irrespective of a hard crash, yet the Minister is fiddling around the edges of most of these proposals without making substantive changes and is saying that these will only apply if there is a hard crash. Wake up and smell the reality. There are businesses that need these additional supports now.

No one wants to see a hard crash and I still believe it is unlikely, but if there is a hard crash, many businesses will be very exposed. They will be disappointed and sore that this is the best the Government can do. It is deeply ideological. It is Fine Gael once again saying that the market should solve these problems and interventions by the State should be as limited as possible. That is the problem. The Government does not see that the mammoth challenges facing the economy and businesses need State interventions and supports of a greater scale than the minimalist one it is proposing.

We will press the amendment to a vote and will view it as a vote of no confidence in the Government's support for business, which is what these amendments are concerned with. Much more needs to be done. The Minister does not realise that. If she believes that, by attending an InterTradeIreland event and speaking to a small number of businesses, everything is hunky dory, it is not. There are businesses that are struggling because of Brexit. When we meet them, they tell us that the Government is not doing enough.

Deputy Maurice Quinlivan: Information on Maurice Quinlivan Zoom on Maurice Quinlivan If I was not sure about pressing amendment No. 31 before, I am sure after the Minister's response. It was underwhelming. She stated that information had reached 90% of SMEs and then queried my figures on the uptake of business supports, yet she then cited the same figures herself. Just 81 loans with a value of €17.3 million have been given out under the €300 million Brexit loan scheme. That is 6%. People might be aware that the loan exists, but they are coming away from the events - I have attended a number of them and some have been quite good - still confused and unable to access the loan. That is clear.

I do not understand why the Department cannot revert to us with a review of the loans and of why the uptake rate is so low. That is the purpose of my amendment, which we will be pressing. We will also support amendment No. 30.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten It is not my intention to divide the House on this, but my amendment is fair and reasonable. I have outlined to the Minister why we need this amendment. Local enterprise offices are calling for its provisions. They have met the Minister. They want to be able to support businesses of over ten employees. They want to be able to support companies that do not fall under the Enterprise Ireland criteria.

Last Updated: 15/06/2020 12:10:29 First Page Previous Page Page of 91 Next Page Last Page