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06.41 24 Jul 2020


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The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said the emergency COVID-19 payments can be repurposed in the new year to deal with Brexit if needed.

Under the July stimulus plan, the emergency Pandemic Unemployment Payment and the Wage Subsidy Scheme will be extended until April 2021.

However both will be tapered to lower levels during that time - with the unemployment payment eventually being reduced in line with jobseekers benefit.

Speaking to Newstalk's political correspondent Sean Defoe, Mr Varadkar said part of the decision to extend the fund was with Brexit in mind.

"There's extra money from my department in particular to help businesses that trade with the UK to prepare for Brexit."

"But more significantly, if you look at the way this package is structured, it runs through to the end of the first quarter of next year.

"The Pandemic Unemployment Payment, the Wage Subsidy, the VAT cut - all of those things run into February and March of next year, April in some cases.

"Why did we make that decision? Because Brexit's coming: at least in terms of trade Brexit, if you like, political Brexit already happened but trade Brexit will happen on the 31st of December this year.

"So if you look at what's happening for example in Britain, they're ending their wage subsidy in October - same in Northern Ireland - they're ending their VAT cut at the end of December.

"We thought 'no, we actually needed a plan that runs through to the spring of next year' - so that it covers Brexit as well as what's happening as a result of the pandemic".

It comes as the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said a trade deal between the bloc and the UK is now unlikely.

On Thursday, Mr Barnier said while some progress was made, issues around a level playing field and fisheries are still outstanding.

"The EU has always insisted that an economic partnership with the UK must include robust level playing field rules and an equitable agreement on fisheries.

"This means that, by its current refusal to commit to conditions of open and fair competition and to a balanced agreement on fisheries, the UK makes a trade agreement at this point unlikely", he added.

Meanwhile the Government's new staycation tax rebate can also be used to get tax back on meals in local restaurants.

Under the plan people can get up to €125 back on €625 spent on accommodation or food bills.

Mr Varadkar said the scheme can also be used to boost local business.

"I think this is going to benefit all parts of Ireland - essentially it's a €5bn injection into our economy, €7bn if you include loan guarantees.

"And it's all about getting businesses open, helping those that are open to stay open, getting people back to work and for those who won't be able to go back to their old jobs, there'll be about 75,000 opportunities in terms of education, apprenticeships, enterprise set up grants, courses, you name it.

"But I think one thing that'll be particularly beneficial for businesses in rural Ireland is that fact that the minimum restart grant has been increased to €4,000.

"Any business that is re-opening in rural Ireland, or any business that stayed open and saw a significant reduction in their turnover, will have a restart grant of 4,000".

"I think what will also be of particular benefit is that there'll be a commercial rates holiday for six months.

"The big companies will have to pay, but the smaller companies particularity in towns and villages won't have to pay".

He said he hopes people will take advantage of the spend and save initiative while holidaying at home.

"We're hoping that at least two million people will take advantage of it.

"Yes it's for domestic tourism encouraging people to take that weekend away or that night away during the winter.

"But also as well encouraging people to support local businesses in their towns.

"So if you can't afford, or you're not able to go away for the weekend, you can use that money in your local town - and if you do that'll be a good thing as well".

Reporting by Sean Defoe | Additional reporting: Jack Quann

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadkar arrives for a Cabinet meeting in Dublin Castle. Picture by: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

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Brexit Brexit Trade Deal COVID-19 Payments July Stimulus Package Leo Varadar Rebate Staycation

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