Bank of Ireland launches €2bn Brexit fund for SME lending

Gary McDonald Business Editor

ONE of the north's biggest banks has set aside €2 billion fund to lend to small and medium-sized businesses requiring emergency capital to adapt to the challenges of Brexit.

And it comes as its regional head warned: “Brexit isn’t ‘business as usual’.”

The fund has been launched by Bank of Ireland for Brexit-related lending and will also support businesses that have deferred Brexit plans because of the heightened uncertainty in the market because of the Brexit negotiations.

The bank's Northern Ireland manager Ian Sheppard confirmed that its northern customers will have "full demand-led access" to the fund, which he says enhances its capacity to meet the needs of local business customers and supports cross-border and other international business.

"Our business advisers are talking to customers on a daily basis and we know many need further support with stocking facilities, foreign currency management and working capital in the lead up to Brexit.

“A recent NI Chamber economic survey found that 50 per cent of its members said Brexit is having a negative impact on costs, ich in turn impacts cash flow. Bank of Ireland is ready to support our customers whatever the outcome for Brexit.

“Larger businesses are better prepared, which is understandable given their scale and resources. Businesses of all sizes and in key sectors, such as agri, manufacturing and hospitality, are looking to mitigate risks associated with Brexit, for example access to labour and labour costs.

"Our customers are sharing their concerns and opportunities with us and we know that our significant all island presence means we are well placed to support them.

“Brexit isn’t ‘business as usual’, but we are here to support our customers flex, adapt and thrive.

"We encourage businesses to engage with our local teams across Northern Ireland, to come and talk to us and work together in understanding their business and the funding supports and options available."

Meanwhile a UK-wide survey has found that a third of SMEs would change their mind on Brexit if they were to vote again. surveyed 1,934 respondents who took a vote on Brexit to find out just how they feel about it two years on, and when asked if they would you revoke their vote, 34 per cent of leavers declared yes, if they had the choice again they would choose to remain part of the EU.

Naomi Aharony, managing director of Reboot Online, said: “I don’t believe the government is fully aware of the imminent existential threat to so many SMEs caused by the ongoing negotiations.

“It’s not surprising that so many small business owners who originally voted to leave have expressed their desire to revoke their vote. I don’t think this is due to some sort of change of heart but rather a willingness to avoid the chaos that has been created by the Brexit process and negotiations.”

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