Belfast Telegraph

Donegal businessman calls for government to give clarity on Brexit spending

Ministers have said 40 million euro would be made available in the event of a no-deal Brexit in funding for the border and to help the tourism sector.

Darren Cunningham at Carlingford Lough in Newry (PA)
Darren Cunningham at Carlingford Lough in Newry (PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

A Donegal businessman has called for the Irish government to give clarity on how the Brexit funding will help border firms.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said that 40 million euro would be made available in the event of a no-deal Brexit on funding for the border and to help the tourism sector.

Brian McDermott, proprietor of the Foyle Hotel in Moville, said there will be major causalities in the border region and called for the government to release funding before it is too late.

The border trader also criticised the decision not to reduce VAT for the hospitality sector in Tuesday’s budget.

He said: “The budget saw no change to the 13.5% tax rate for the hospitality sector, which is probably the most frustrating and bad strategic move on behalf the government. It is hampering and killing off businesses in the border area.

“They need to change the VAT from 13.5% back to 9%. That was an incentive and it worked.

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Brian McDermott, owner of the Foyle Hotel in Co Donegal (PA)

“Now we are facing unprecedented times and with the sterling so low it’s left Donegal not being the most natural escape, especially people for Northern Ireland as they don’t have a fair exchange rate, plus the insecurity of Brexit has damaged consumer confidence.

“We have been trying to showcase the area, from our very strong message on food to selling the story of buying into the local economy.

“Less than two years ago there was a favourable VAT rate and Donegal was hopping in terms of immediate and frequent breaks, but Brexit has knocked consumer confidence.

“The budget will not do us any favours.”

The chef said that he and his staff are working “tirelessly” to keep the doors open.

“We are talking open survival, not profit,” he added.

“The contingency plans sounds like a cheap softener. I have previously heard that there would be more money but it need to go to border areas as it’s a border issue and industry problem.

“As an operator, I will be watching to see where this is being made available.

“There is going to be causalities and there is no celebration, and central Dublin does not get how severe it is.”

Oyster farmer and owner of Killowen Shellfish Darren Cunningham said the threat of Brexit has stalled investing more money in his business.

Darren, who works at Carlingford Lough, has been an oyster farmer for ten years.

“As someone who works on the border I cannot forward-plan, I just hope for the best,” he said.

“I would have invested three or four times more had it not been for the threat of Brexit. I cannot throw money at something that I don’t know whether it will work.

“I think the Irish government has done everything it can to address the fears people have about Brexit.

“I think tariffs will be bad – we are shipping out live oysters which are picked up by a southern company on a Friday and by midday Sunday it will reach our customers.

“The oysters are alive and in good condition so we are very worried about delays. It’s my biggest fear as they are living creatures.”

Darren, whose business is north of the border, said he does not expect the same Brexit contingency funding from the UK Government.

“No-one knows what will happen because no-one can give us an answer,” he added.

“I wouldn’t imagine they (UK Government) will do anything like that as Stormont isn’t up and running. It’s a mess and there’s no getting round it.”

PA

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