Asked yesterday about UK development agencies apparently courting Irish food companies, Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said that no client companies have indicated a willingness to move to the UK.
The food sector is one of Ireland’s most vulnerable areas to Brexit, as over half of our €10bn yearly food exports go directly to the UK.
Ms Sinnamon was launching Enterprise Ireland’s new four-year strategy and reviewing its last. She said that Irish firms should be prepared for a ‘hard’ Brexit, where the UK has no access to the single market. It has been suggested that such an outcome could wipe €12bn off the Irish economy over five years.
Also in attendance, Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell-O’Connor said that the Government was prepared for “every eventuality” regarding Brexit.
Enterprise Ireland yesterday said 45,592 net new jobs were created by client firms between 2014 and the end of 2016; beating its 40,000 target. That brought to 201,108 the number of people employed by Enterprise Ireland- supported companies; a record high for the agency.
By 2020, Enterprise Ireland is targeting 60,000 new jobs in client firms and an increase in client export values to €26bn per year.
Increasing the level of exports to destinations other than the UK — including a 50% rise in exports to the EU — is also on the to-do list.
While Ms Sinnamon admitted the new targets are ambitious, she said “we aim to build on this success and ensure that Irish enterprise is well positioned to continue to succeed globally, particularly in the context of Brexit”.
While Ms Sinnamon and Ms Mitchell-O’Connor stressed the importance of Irish exporters broadening their international presence, both said consolidating links to the UK, post-Brexit, will still be vital.
“We need to make sure Irish companies are availing of the most lucrative opportunities in the UK,” Ms Sinnamon said.
She said that Enterprise Ireland will be working to drive innovation in client firms, with an aim to reach a target of €1.25bn in R&D expenditure per year by 2020, and improve their competitiveness through its Competitiveness and Lean programmes, which will provide targeted supports.
Ms Mitchell-O’Connor said she was very confident that Enterprise Ireland and the IDA have enough resources and experience to deal with threats posed by Brexit.