'Vulnerable but viable' firms to have €110m for no-deal scenario
FINANCE Minister Paschal Donohoe was dishing out life-jackets to businesses as it looks increasingly likely that a no-deal Brexit storm is on the horizon.
A planned €1.2bn Brexit boost will include €200m that will be spent next year increasing staff levels at Government departments and agencies, upgrading port and airport infrastructure, and investing in IT and facilities managements.
An additional €1bn will be borrowed only if there's a no-deal Brexit.
Of that, €650m will be allocated to the business, agriculture and tourism sectors.
Mr Donohoe said €220m would be deployed immediately in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Of the initial €220m, the minister has allocated €110m for enterprises that will be targeted with "new interventions" to help "vulnerable but viable firms" adjust to a no-deal Brexit.
The supports will include grants, equity and loans.
"These interventions will support firms of all sizes at all levels of difficulty with a particular focus on sectors most exposed, including food, manufacturing and internationally traded services," said Mr Donohoe.
Included in the funds is €42m in rescue and restructuring supports, as well as a €45m transition fund.
There's also an €8m transformation fund for food and non-food business, and an additional €5m for Micro Finance Ireland.
It provides loans of between €2,000 and €25,000 to small businesses and start-ups.
The chief executive of the Institute of Directors, Maura Quinn, said the association's quarterly surveys have found business confidence was in "virtual free-fall" for the past 12 months and the decline has intensified as Brexit approaches.
"Irish business leaders have been and are still worried, and they wanted the Irish Government to take note and deliver accordingly in this Budget," she said.
"We will take stock as we read the fine print of Mr Donohoe's Budget, but it looks like the Government has taken on board the concerns of the business community and has delivered the conservative Budget that was required," added Ms Quinn.
The British-Irish Chamber of Commerce also welcomed the hard-Brexit contingency package announced by the minister.
Director general John McGrane said the €1.2bn support package is "vital" in the event of a hard Brexit at the end of this month.
"The approach taken by the Government to plan for a no-deal Brexit is a prudent one that will best help protect business and trade in the uncertain days and weeks ahead," he said.
Neil Gibson, the chief economist at accountancy and advisory firm EY, warned the speed at which the no-deal Brexit financial supports can be deployed would determine their effectiveness.