Industry leaders have welcomed plans for a government bailout for businesses in the firing line of a no-deal Brexit, but called on ministers to urgently release more details of which companies will receive help.
Operation Kingfisher, as it has been billed, has been devised by former Defra secretary Michael Gove to co-ordinate support for businesses most at risk of financial crisis that were “otherwise fundamentally viable”.
This week industry leaders applauded the initiative, which they hoped would help businesses cope with potentially catastrophic cashflow problems such as the imposition of WTO tariffs and likely supply chain disruption.
However, concerns were expressed that with fewer than 80 days to go until the 31 October deadline, firm details of the bailout have yet to materialise.
“This is great news,” said Freight Transport Association deputy CEO James Hookham. “The government has recognised the industry is facing a cashflow crisis if we get the worst possible result of a no-deal Brexit.
“To me the significant thing is it’s the government admitting the concerns of the industry are real. This is recognition that it’s not Project Fear but Project Fact.”
However, there are reports that fewer than 1,000 businesses might eventually make it on to the list of companies helped by the government, with - as well as food - manufacturing and construction among those areas likely to be hardest hit.
A spokeswoman for the National Sheep Association said initial talks had been held with ministers about a bailout, after reports showed farms in the UK would be left facing huge tariffs on exports to Europe in the event of a no-deal. The NFU has warned it could lead to a mass slaughter of lambs in the UK because of the reliance on exports to France.
“The talks have been very provisional at this early stage, but have focused on the idea of the government paying a one-off sum based on a headcount of breeding ewes that will produce lambs next year,” said the NSA spokeswoman.
“It’s a sign that the government is increasingly aware of the reality facing British farmers in the event of a no-deal Brexit. However, we urgently need more detail.”
A senior retail source said there had been initial discussions with government about the bailout. “It would provide important support for small businesses that may struggle in a no-deal scenario,” he said.