Northern Ireland businesses could lose post-Covid support on protocol rules

Businesses in Northern Ireland may benefit from a reduced level of post-Covid government support due to protocol rules.

according to British government sources reported in the The telegraph of the dayEU state aid rules mean the maximum loan available to businesses here will be set at £1million.

In the rest of the UK, a proposed extension of the Covid support scheme is expected to allow companies with turnover of less than £45million a year to borrow up to £2million.

However, businesses here will be limited by the rules of the post-Brexit protocol agreement.

It is not the first time that the Northern Ireland protocol has been cited as an obstacle to financial support, after Chancellor Rishi Sunak was unable to reduce VAT in certain areas due to the problem.

In his mini budget in March, Mr Sunak scrapped VAT for energy efficiency measures such as solar panels, heat pumps and insulation to cope with high energy bills.

However, the Chancellor said the policy would not immediately apply to Northern Ireland due to “gaps” in the Northern Ireland protocol and said the government would raise the issue with the European Commission as a “matter of urgency”.

It comes as Boris Johnson is due to travel to Belfast on Monday in a bid to resolve the escalating issue that is preventing the DUP from forming a government in Stormont.

Government sources said Mr Johnson would use a series of private meetings to deliver a ‘hard message’ that any ‘solution’ to protocol must involve the parties coming together to form an executive and assembly.

He is expected to say that while the UK government will ‘play its part to ensure political stability’, politicians must ‘get back to work’ so they can answer the ‘bread and butter questions’ for voters.

Ahead of his visit, however, Sinn Fein – which is now the largest party in the Assembly after the May 5 election – accused the Prime Minister of being “in cahoots” with the DUP and supporting its “tactics of blockage”.

Sinn Fein chairwoman Mary Lou McDonald said: “It’s very dangerous, it’s reckless, it’s a tightrope game, very cynically led by a Conservative government in London which doesn’t care about the island of Ireland, north or south.”

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Edward L. Robinett