Efforts combined to help prepare SMEs affected by UK’s EU departure

16th November 2017 | News

The government and the European Commission have agreed the creation of a new joint working group with the focus on examining how the State can aid small businesses affected by the UK’s impending departure from the European Union (EU) without breaching EU state aid guidelines.

Earlier this month, Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald met European commissioner for competition, Margrethe Vestager in Brussels to discuss the establishment of a working group of officials from Dublin and Brussels. 

The group will seek to find new ways of supporting sensitive businesses across Ireland at a time of economic uncertainty for them.

Ms Fitzgerald handed over her department’s report, titled ‘Building Stronger Businesses’ to Ms Vestager in Brussels to underline the Irish government’s commitment to tackle the issue of UK leaving the EU in a flexible and timely manner.

During a meeting last week, the pair discussed the impact on the UK’s departure from the EU on Ireland’s Border SMEs, as well as engineering, tourism, agri-food and other key sectors.

The government has long argued that the after-effects of the UK leaving the EU on the Irish economy would be significantly “asymmetric” in comparison with other member states within the EU. There is a feeling that these after-effects alone should justify the country special dispensation regarding EU state aid rules to provide further financial support.

Ibec, Ireland’s leading business and employer association, has previously claimed that the country’s small firms with a higher percentage of trade with the UK – across a raft of goods and service sectors – will naturally be more severely affected than larger multinationals, who will be better positioned to absorb any financial changes.

However, the European Commission has previously stated there is already sufficient flexibility within the state aid system to protect Ireland’s SME community sufficiently.