Does Merlin Reach Into Northern Ireland?
Businesses in Northern Ireland face a serious disadvantage because the British government’s breakthrough deal to release funds for industry does not apply to three out of the four main banks here, according to Manufacturing Northern Ireland.
Earlier this week Chancellor George Osborne announced Project Merlin, an historic deal with the banks which will see £190 Billion of lending to businesses this year, of which £76 Billion has been earmarked for small businesses.
Yet of the four main banks here, only one Ulster Bank was signatory to the deal. Now Manufacturing Northern Ireland is demanding a level playing field by calling on Finance Minister Sammy Wilson to insist on similar arrangements for Northern, First Trust and the Bank of Ireland.
Chief Executive Bryan Gray said:
“Mr Wilson should push Owen Patterson and George Osborne to use their influence to broker a similar deal which will release funds in Northern Ireland. The government’s review of banking should recognise that the banking sector in Northern Ireland is a specific issue and measures should be taken to ensure that the same efforts to free up lending take place here as across the rest of the UK. ”
Mr Gray added that many Manufacturing Northern Ireland member companies were reporting that the situation regarding orders and new business was looking better than it has for some time, but that their ability to move into new markets is being severely hampered by a lack of lending from the local banks.
“We are asking the Secretary of State Owen Patterson to outline his government’s plans to extend the same degree of support for business which exists across the UK through the announcement of this deal, to businesses operating in Northern Ireland. The Banking sector here is different from the rest of the UK, given the make up and ownership of our banking sector, and its clear from listening to our members that the recovery which is within our grasp is being hampered by the continuing lack of lending from the four main banks here.”