Irish businesses are responding to the challenges posed by Brexit by tapping into markets beyond the UK, the country’s finance minister has said.
As the government continues to urge firms to be prepared for the UK leaving the European Union, Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Business Heather Humphreys visited businesses in the border region.
New regional enterprise plans have been launched to support growth and job creation in border counties, which are considered to be most vulnerable to Brexit.
Mr Donohoe, who visited Drumshanbo Food Hub in Co Leitrim, said: “Seeing businesses like this fills me with optimism about the ability of Irish businesses to respond back to all of the different challenges that Brexit will bring.
“We have seen a business that is now a global leader, that has diversified its markets beyond the UK and businesses like this, there are thousands of them all over Ireland, have already responded to the challenges that our domestic economy has had and because of that are really well positioned to deal with future challenges.”
In response to reports that Brexit could be delayed for up to two years, Mr Donohoe said that more time would allow Irish businesses and the economy to plan for the future.
He added: “It will be in the long term interests to get clarity regarding what the future relationship will be like between the UK and the EU.
“A transitional period that gives more time to plan for that future would be of benefit to all but we will be looking to move all of this forward as members of the EU and through the task force led by Michel Barnier.”
The north-west regional plan has a total of six objectives which aims to enhance the visibility of skills and maximise the potential of the Wild Atlantic Way and tourism.
Minister Humphreys said companies like Drumshanbo Food Hub is already prepared for Brexit.
“There are a wide range of supports available through Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) and I would particularly encourage companies to register online with Revenue,” she added.
“Later today I am launching an online customs training programme and also one-to-one mentoring and we already have an Enterprise Ireland website that gives training for customs and we want people to engage in that.
“There are lots of other supports out there we have been providing to businesses.
“We have been encouraging businesses to prepare for the worst case scenario while we continue to negotiate for the best possible outcome.
“We still have some time to go but I am saying to businesses, be ready.”
The north-west plan is one of nine regional enterprise plans.
Minister Humphreys said there are 8,200 more people working in the border region than at the beginning of 2015, and the unemployment rate has reduced from 8.6% down to 3.8%.
“Notwithstanding this huge success, it is clear that there are new challenges emerging for enterprises in the external environment,” she added.