Enterprise Ireland: Brexit fears loom large despite record employment

7 Jan 2020

From left: Julie Sinnamon, Enterprise Ireland CEO; and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys. Image: Maxwell Photography

Enterprise Ireland’s report for 2019 showed that while there was record employment in the companies it supports, Brexit uncertainty has hampered growth.

Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD, launched Enterprise Ireland’s 2019 report this morning (7 January) with news that 221,895 people are now employed at companies supported by the agency, marking a new record. Over the course of last year, a total of 16,971 jobs were created while the net number of jobs created was 4,706.

Of the total number of jobs, 66pc were in companies based outside of Dublin. Most regions of the country experienced growth in employment ranging between 2pc and 3pc, however, the midlands saw a 1pc dip.

Looking at different industries, Ireland’s cleantech sector saw a 9pc growth in job creation, followed by life sciences (6pc), fintech (6pc), electronics (5pc), and ICT and international services (both up 4pc). However, Enterprise Ireland noted that the food sector saw just 1pc growth last year, which it has attributed to the uncertainty created by Brexit.

Over the course of 2018 and 2019, the agency approved funding of €125m to its most Brexit-exposed clients. Last week, it announced a €28m stimulus package for businesses in the border region to mitigate the potential effects of the UK’s departure from the EU.

Humphreys said that while these latest results were welcome, she added that “we cannot become complacent about the hard-won gains of recent years”.

Not underestimating the challenge

“We have made huge progress, but today we have new challenges and we need to constantly evolve to remain competitive. With the UK set to leave the EU in a few weeks, we will soon be entering into complex trade negotiations between Brussels and London,” the minister said.

“Ireland is coming to these talks in a strong position, but there is still a lot of uncertainty and it would be a mistake to underestimate how challenging the process will be.”

Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon added: “Our results show that two-thirds of our Brexit-exposed companies have decreased their reliance on the UK, with 442 new overseas presences established by client companies with the support of Enterprise Ireland. This includes over 99 new market presences into the Eurozone in 2019, which is a key focus of our strategy.

“With Brexit now becoming a reality from the end of January, the major issue that exporters will face in the future is how our trading relationship with the UK will change from 2021 onwards. In 2019, 1,554 new overseas contracts were secured by Enterprise Ireland client companies and we will look to build on this success in 2020.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic