Northern Ireland news

Concerns about post-Brexit support for businesses

Difficult decisions will have to be made over how to support businesses struggling due to Brexit

TOUGH decisions will have to be made about how to support businesses hit by a no-deal Brexit, sources have warned.

A no-deal will hit agri-food businesses hardest, with one source warning of an "immediate, severe and harsh" impact on the dairy sector.

However, with the continued impasse at Stormont and no ministers to give directions on policy, civil servants are questioning what decisions they can take to support businesses.

It is understood that the civil service may be able to extend existing schemes but would face problems trying to set up new projects, including ones targeted specifically at border communities.

Sources said one of their concerns is that a no-deal would lead to an economic shock, putting many firms under severe pressure and "there would be an expectation that government would assist".

"The UK government has created an expectation that money would be available to soften the blow."

An informed source said, in the event of a no-deal, there would be a need to design new schemes to help the agricultural sector but that in the absence of Stormont and without ministers, the civil service would be unable to do it.

"And those are the sorts of decisions that normally and quite properly are taken by ministers," said the source.

"How would you justify protecting one sector and not another?"

It is understood that support may only be given to businesses which are viable and can trade in a challenging post-Brexit climate.

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