Thursday 14 December 2017

Cash boost for small firms hit by Brexit

British prime minister Theresa May has vowed to push ahead and trigger Article 50 within two weeks. Stock image
British prime minister Theresa May has vowed to push ahead and trigger Article 50 within two weeks. Stock image
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Small businesses will receive a cash boost from the State to help fight Brexit battles, the Sunday Independent has learned.

British prime minister Theresa May has vowed to push ahead and trigger Article 50 within two weeks, starting the formal two-year negotiation process to leave the EU.

Britain is the key trading partner for Ireland's export-focused economy - and firms are already suffering from a decline in the value of sterling.

Now, an export guarantee scheme for small and medium businesses vulnerable to Brexit aftershocks will be introduced before the end of June.

It will provide working capital for those at the cutting edge of the export trade.

The Department of Finance is working with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) - an SME-focused lender - to develop a suitable product for companies looking to expand or diversify into new markets.

The scheme will be available to SMEs with "viable business plans" and will support the working capital needs of companies.

It will be managed by the SBCI, who will partner with "one or more commercial finance providers".

Businesses in the agri-food sector - and those in Border areas - have been particularly hit by the drop in the value of the pound.

Bord Bia has calculated that the fall in the value of sterling following the Brexit vote cost Irish food and drink exporters €570m last year alone.

Overall, trade from this sector to the UK fell by 8pc in 2016, which Bord Bia attributes to weaker sterling.

Cheese exports to Britain, which accounts for half of all Irish cheese exported, showed a double-digit percentage decline, while mushroom exports were also hard hit.

Meanwhile, it has also emerged that as the fallout from the Brexit vote gathers pace, there are plans to provide more international-focused educational opportunities in Ireland.

This is especially aimed at attracting highly skilled foreign professionals with children of school-going age.

The international baccalaureate is often taught at elite and diplomatic schools abroad.

It is offered at second level at St Andrew's College, in Booterstown, Co Dublin.

The International School of Dublin, in Synge Street, also teaches the baccalaureate programme at primary level.

Banks, insurance companies and other major financial corporations are turning their attention to Dublin as an EU base as the UK's departure from the EU gathers pace.

Options for their children's education will be high on the priority list for executives.

In many cases, school fees for offspring form part of an overall remuneration package for many company high flyers.

HR personnel from the companies involved often come to check out the available education, with a focus on the fee-paying sector.

The Department of the Taoiseach confirmed it is examining ways to develop more "international schooling options".

A spokesman said this will enhance the "competitiveness and growth of Irish enterprises and foreign direct investment".

It will also ensure businesses located in Ireland can continue to attract "global talent" to complement domestic supply.

A spokesman also stated the Financial Services minister, Eoghan Murphy, has met with "various stakeholders active in this space".

However, he refused to confirm whether the Government still intends to open a new school specifically geared to teaching the international baccalaureate in Dublin.

Last October, Minister Murphy hinted at such a move.

Sunday Independent

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