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NI firms voice fears of coronavirus loans repayment

Ann McGregor

One in five Northern Ireland firms have concerns about being able to pay back crucial Government loans aimed at getting them through lockdown and the coronavirus crisis, a survey has shown.

And around 43% of firms quizzed said they had seen little to no signs of improvement over the last quarter, according to the latest survey from the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, along with professional services business BDO.

While there are some signs of improvement from quarter two, Northern Ireland remains one of the poorest performing UK regions, according to the latest findings.

Around half of members replying to the survey said they already have, or plan to, reduce staff.

And on Brexit, just 39% are currently making preparations, with many citing Covid-19 as having negatively impacted on their preparedness.

Just 7% believe they understand what will happen with trading arrangements to and from the rest of UK, after the end of Brexit transition period at the start of 2021.

Around 80% of those surveyed think a ‘grace period’ of 12 months or more is needed after transition in order to allow for preparation and modification of processes before any changes take legal effect in terms of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“Previous findings told us that Northern Ireland’s economy entered the Covid-19 crisis in an already fragile state,” Ann McGregor, NI Chamber chief executive, said.

“This report confirms that while many indicators have improved when compared to quarter two they remain negative, which tells us that business conditions among many local businesses continue to worsen.

Brian Murphy, managing partner, BDO NI, said: “We cannot avoid the fact that every economic indicator is down from last year, with Covid-19 impacting many sectors in a way we have never seen before.”

Belfast Telegraph