Europe

Ireland will be the eurozone’s biggest loser from a no-deal Brexit, which threatens to cause an economic “double whammy” on top of the fallout from rising coronavirus infections, the Irish central bank’s governor has warned, the Financial Times reported. Gabriel Makhlouf told the Financial Times that if the UK left the EU without a trade deal at the end of this year, the new tariffs on goods would hit Ireland’s agricultural and food sectors hardest, knocking 2 percentage points off the country’s economic growth next year.  “This whole process is lose-lose,” said Mr Makhlouf.

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More than £3bn might have been stolen in furlough money by criminal gangs and fraudulent employers, according to estimates used by parliament’s spending watchdog in a report into the government’s flagship jobs protection scheme, the Financial Times reported. The National Audit Office said there was evidence of “significant levels of furlough fraud” from both organised gangs “hijacking” claims and employers taking money collected on behalf of staff. More money will be lost through staff working hours that they were claiming for, the NAO added.

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Over half the small and medium-sized companies which together provide jobs for two-thirds of European workers fear for their survival in the coming 12 months, according to a survey released by management consultancy McKinsey on Thursday, Reuters reported. The survey was conducted in August, before the current acceleration in new coronavirus cases across Europe that is forcing governments to impose new restrictions on activity and prompting speculation of fresh national lockdowns.

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KPMG has put its UK restructuring practice up for sale and held talks with private equity firms ahead of a possible auction before the end of the year, according to people familiar with the matter, the Financial Times reported. A cash injection would help the Big Four firm, with its finances having suffered during the pandemic. KPMG also faces a potentially large fine over its audit work for Carillion, the collapsed outsourcing group, as well as a £250m negligence lawsuit brought by the company’s administrators.

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More than a third of British hospitality companies are at risk of going bust, according to a survey on Thursday that suggested more support will be needed for businesses amid a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, Reuters reported. The Office for National Statistics said 17% of food and accommodation businesses reported a “severe” risk of insolvency, while a further 21% said the risk was “moderate”.

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Overseas tourism revenues are likely to collapse by two-thirds this year as a result of Covid-19, an Oireachtas committee has been told. In 2019 the overseas market brought in €9 billion in revenue; this year it will be closer to €3 billion, The Irish Times reported. Foreign visitors account for 75 per cent of all tourism revenue earned in the State, members were told.

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The International Monetary Fund warned European governments facing resurgent coronavirus infections not to shy away from sweeping financial support for households and businesses, Bloomberg News reported. Doing too little now will ultimately be more costly than providing too much aid, according to Alfred Kammer, director of the organization’s European Department. “Put simply: governments cannot afford not to spend,” he said in a briefing on Wednesday.

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Britain’s government borrowing in the first half of the financial year was more than six times higher than before the COVID pandemic, official figures showed on Wednesday, taking public debt to its highest since 1960, Reuters reported. Public borrowing in September alone totalled 36.101 billion pounds ($46.90 billion), above all forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists, although August’s figure was revised down by more than 5 billion pounds to 30.113 billion pounds.

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Up to 1,250 Irish businesses have been “recommended” for State-backed coronavirus loans, according to a senior official at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, The Irish Times reported. Declan Hughes, head of the department’s indigenous enterprise, SMEs and entrepreneurship division, said that as of last Friday banks operating the Government’s Covid-19 credit guarantee scheme had recommended 1,250 loans worth €64 million. Mr Hughes told the Oireachtas Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Employment that there had been “very significant interest” in the initiative.

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Sweden’s Handelsbanken reported a fall in quarterly net earnings on Wednesday due to restructuring costs, though the bank’s loan portfolio continued to weather the impact of the coronavirus pandemic with ease, Reuters reported. Handelsbanken said in its report that results had been impacted by a provision for a restructuring reserve of 1.47 billion crowns referring to the branch closure and IT investment programme the bank unveiled in September.

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