Brexit: Just 1.8 per cent of £20m UK SME support fund paid to NI businesses

Michael Gove announced the £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund in February. Picture by Ronan McGrade

LESS than two per cent of a £20 million post-Brexit trade fund has been offered to businesses in Northern Ireland.

The SME Brexit Support Fund was launched in February by Michael Gove with the goal of offering grants to support 10,000 UK firms trading with the EU.

Up to £2,000 was to be made available to help companies respond to the increased bureaucracy and costs arising from Brexit.

But new figures show just a third of the money has been paid out, with just £360,174 (1.8 per cent) offered to businesses in Northern Ireland.

Only 4,346 grants were awarded from 5,414 applications.

The scheme, which closed for applications on June 30, initially drew criticism over claims some firms were provided with just £30 to £40.

South Belfast SDLP MP Claire Hanna, who sits on the UK Trade and Business Commission said: “As the government prepares to pay 500 times more for a royal trade yacht, it is inexcusable that they can only offer this measly support for Northern Ireland businesses struggling because of their half-baked deal with the EU.

“The government must hold another round of bidding with a simplified application process and more substantial grants.”

The Best for Britain campaign group acts as the secretariat for the UK Trade and Business Commission.

The organisation's chief executive, Naomi Smith, said: "After a rushed deal with the EU, which had scant parliamentary oversight, SMEs are facing crippling costs, burdensome bureaucracy, and disrupted supply lines.

“Without real action by the government, small businesses risk falling through the holes in this deal and into the abyss, taking British jobs with them."

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