The Brexit loan scheme was set up on 3 April 2018 to support Irish businesses that trade in the UK and which were likely to be adversely affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020.
The scheme is managed by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) in partnership with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and supported by the InnovFin SME Guarantee Facility as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme.
The objective of the €300m scheme is to provide financial support to eligible Irish businesses to allow them to adapt their businesses to address the challenges caused by Brexit.
According to the latest figures on the scheme (as of 25 January 2021) 1,232 application have been received and 285 loans approved to a total value of €57.64m.
The SBCI has recently extended the scheme to 31 December 2021 (it was previously due to end on 31 March 2021).
This article will give small and medium-sized businesses advice on the scheme, what it is, when it ends, how it works, eligibility criteria and how to apply for a loan under the scheme.
We cover the following topics:
What is the Brexit loan scheme?
If your business needs financial support to manage cash flow post-Brexit or to adapt your business processes to meet the new challenges presented since the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December 2020, you may be eligible to access funding via the scheme.
The scheme offers low-interest rate loans to Irish businesses that meet specific criteria through the participating lenders: AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank.
The features of the scheme are as follows:
- Low-interest rates with a maximum fixed rate of 4% per annum
- Amounts available from €25,000 to €1.5m with terms from one to three years
- Unsecured loans are offered up to €500,000
- No penalty fees for early repayments
- Interest-only repayments may be available at the start of the loan term.
Purpose of the loan
The loan must be for one of two purposes:
1. To fund future working capital requirements
2. To invest in innovation, changes or adaptations of your business to lessen the impact of Brexit.
The loan must not be for the following:
- Refinancing of companies experiencing financial difficulties
- Refinancing of debt, including leases, hire purchases and term loans.
Note: If your business has already availed of State-supported funding, the loan amount may be affected as loan amounts and terms are subject to De Minimis rules, which provides for a threshold of €200,000 in State aid in any three-year period.
When does the scheme end?
The scheme’s availability period has recently been extended to December 2021 and the SBCI is engaging with the provider banks about the extension of the scheme.
It was originally designed to run until 31 March 2020 and was extended in 2020 until 31 March 2021.
Eligibility for the scheme
Your business must be viable and fall into one of the following categories: micro, small, medium or small mid-cap enterprise.
(Micro businesses have fewer than 10 employees, SMEs have fewer than 250 employees and a turnover of less than €50 million. Small mid-cap companies have fewer than 500 employees.)
The following are excluded from the scheme:
Companies operating in primary agricultural or aquaculture are ineligible.
Enterprises that are:
- In financial difficulty (this condition excludes cash flow issues directly caused by Brexit)
- Are bankrupt, winding up or in administration by a court
- Has entered into creditor arrangements in the preceding five years related to bankruptcy or winding up, etc
- Convicted of professional misconduct, including fraud or involving criminal activity.
To qualify for the scheme, SMEs and small mid-caps must meet one each of the Brexit criteria outlined below and one of the Innovation criteria.
The Brexit criteria:
- Your business must export products, services or raw materials to and from the UK (including Northern Ireland), and the value of the exports must be at least 15% of turnover.
- Your business must import products, services or raw materials to and from the UK (including Northern Ireland), and the value of the imports must be at least 15% of turnover.
- Your combined value of imports and exports must be at least 15% of turnover.
- Your business trades with a company directly affected by Brexit, and transactions with that company are equal to at least 15% of your turnover.
The Innovation criteria:
Under the scheme, businesses that fulfil the Brexit criteria must also meet one of 11 Innovation criteria.
These include expenditure on research and innovation as a proportion of operating costs, development of new product and entry into new markets.
Alternative financial support (if not eligible)
If your business does not meet the eligibility requirements under the SBCI Brexit loan scheme, other funding options are available. Here are some examples.
Loans of €5,000 to €25,000 for terms between six months to three years are available for small businesses with fewer than 10 employees and an annual turnover of up to €2m for businesses that have:
- Experienced or are likely to experience a 15% or more fall in turnover or
- Are experiencing a short-term cash flow.
Businesses must be unable to access funding from banks and other commercial lending providers,
Interest rates are 4.5% (for referrals through Local Enterprise Office) or 5.5% for direct applications.
This scheme set up in June 2019 to assist companies with challenges posed by Brexit is also operated by the SBCI.
It’s open to viable micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and small mid-cap enterprises to businesses in the primary agriculture (farmers) and seafood sectors to support long-term strategic investment.
Loan amounts are from €100,000 to €3m with terms from eight to 10 years and interest rates from 3.5% to 4.5%.
Note: AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank have been fully subscribed and are no longer accepting applications under the Future Growth Loan Scheme.
KBC Bank and newly joined Close Brothers (announced in February 2021) are still accepting loan applications from eligible businesses.
Financial support is available from your Local Enterprise Office for qualifying company and startups to assist with Brexit challenges.
The grants available are:
- Technical Assistance for Micro Exporters – for companies with 10 or fewer employees to help them explore and develop new market opportunities
- Priming Grants – for businesses trading for less than 18 months
- Business Expansion Grants – for businesses trading for more than 18 months
- Feasibility Study Grants – to cover costs of researching a business idea.
Under this scheme, InterTrade Ireland provides up to €2,250 for professional advice from an approved service provider panel to businesses concerning Brexit, including the movement of goods, services and labour and currency exchange.
The scheme is open to businesses on the island of Ireland that trade with Ireland or Northern Ireland. Companies must have less than 250 employees and less than €50m annual turnover.
How to apply for the Brexit loan scheme
- Read the Eligibility Criteria to assess your eligibility for a loan under the Brexit loan scheme.
- Submit an Eligibility Application Form to the SBCI.
- If you are eligible for the scheme, the SBCI will send you a confirmation letter with an eligibility code.
- When applying for a loan to a participating financial institution, you must provide the eligibility confirmation letter and code.
Note: loan approval is subject to the lender’s terms and conditions.
Additional documentation required
If your business qualifies for a loan under the scheme, the next step is to contact one of the three participating banks.
When submitting a loan application, you must include a current business plan. A business plan template is available on the SCBI website.
Additional information is required if your business falls under specific innovation criteria categories, For further details visit the SBCI’s website.
If your business is struggling to navigate the post-Brexit environment, it makes sense to seek advice and find out what financial supports are available.
To find out more about your funding options and supports, contact your Local Enterprise Office or financial provider.
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