Taoiseach outlines plans to cope with Brexit

Extracts from a speech to Institute for International and European Affairs, 15th February 2017

“The last Budget contained tax measures to support Irish businesses who could be affected by Brexit. As part of this, we have taken specific actions to help the agri-food sector.

We have also provided extra resources for the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, key Government Departments and our Diplomatic Service.Crucially, we have learned from the mistakes of the past by doing this in a fiscally sustainable manner in order to avoid future cycles of boom and bust.We have formally reduced our Debt/GDP Ratio target to 45%, far below the peak of 120% that it reached during the economic crisis.We are on course to have a balanced budget in 2018.And we are putting in place a new Rainy Day Fund to commence in 2019.

“These essential actions by Government will give our country the capacity to absorb and respond to any economic shocks in the future, not least the impact of Brexit.Now, we are moving to the next and decisive phase of our economic response to Brexit.

“Firstly, we will implement 20 specific actions to respond to Brexit set out in the Action Plan for Jobs for 2017.These actions aim to diversify our export markets, improve our competitiveness, realise opportunities for Ireland, and support sectors under particular pressure, like agri-food,, where the Government will continue to help industry respond to the effects of Brexit.

“Next, the Government will publish a new Trade and Investment Strategy before St Patrick’s Day, with targets and actions to grow and diversify markets for Irish exports and investment. This will include a focus on the many opportunities in Eurozone markets.

Based on that strategy, we will undertake the largest ever programme of Ministerial trade missions in 2017. The National Competitiveness Council will carry out research specifically to benchmark our competitiveness against the UK, as UK policies evolve for a post-Brexit environment.

“Later this year, the National Planning Framework Ireland 2040 will be finalised and presented to the Dáil.This will prepare our country for a growth in population of around 1 million people, for more than 500,000 extra people at work, for at least 500,000 extra homes, and for all the associated infrastructure, services, amenities and environmental measures that will require.That will be complemented by a new 10-year National Capital Plan.

“As a direct response to Brexit, I have asked the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform to prepare an ambitious multi-annual 10-year capital plan that will make Ireland a far better place in which to live and work.That plan will make prudent and effective use of our own resources, as well as resources available to Ireland as a member of the European Union.

“We are already in active discussions with the European Investment Bank, which recently opened an office here in Dublin. I am confident those discussions will lead to significant further EIB investments in Ireland.
That new Plan will show how we will invest in roads, in public transport, in energy, in water, in schools, in higher education and in hospitals and health facilities.It will include detailed, funded plans to complete the national road network, including links between Dublin and Derry and Donegal, and to accelerate delivery of critical public transport infrastructure.

“It will include substantial investment in the ports and airports that Ireland will need as a successful, global trading nation.And it will support the achievement of our international climate change obligations and our national objectives for sustainable development and environmental protection.

“Finally, the Government has commenced a review of our industrial policy, Enterprise 2025, which will also be completed this year. It will prioritise policies and investments to make Irish enterprise more diverse and resilient.

The updated Enterprise 2025 Strategy will include a medium-term stabilisation and adjustment plan for those businesses who will be most affected by Brexit.This will set out actions to help businesses to adjust to new trading conditions with the UK, to develop new markets, to address any new logistical challenges or trade barriers and to invest in their people, products and services.

The stabilisation and adjustment measures will be supported by Government funding, where appropriate.We will also make a strong case at EU level that Ireland will require support that recognises where Brexit represents a serious disturbance to the Irish economy.”

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