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Harland and Wolff insist talks with Government continue over key application

Harland and Wolff has insisted talks with Government remain ongoing over a key support application.

It comes after a report in The Times newspaper suggested Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to block the support package, amid an “intense Government row”.

Harland and Wolff group CEO John Wood said their application “has not been rejected”, and “continues to be a work in progress”.

Ben Wallace visit to Harland & Wolff shipyard
Then defence secretary Ben Wallace (right) with CEO John Wood (left) during a visit to Harland & Wolff shipyard factory in Belfast in January 2023 (Brian Lawless/PA)

He added that he expects to give a “fuller update on our refinancing plans in the next few weeks”.

The firm received a major boon when the Team Resolute Consortium it belongs to won the bid to deliver three fleet solid support ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

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It has applied to the Government’s Export Development Guarantee scheme for support.

The scheme usually covered up to 80% of the risk to lenders on loans of up to £500m. Harland and Wolff is in its application asking for a 100% guarantee.

The historic Belfast shipyard which built the Titanic has had a challenging recent past and faced down closure in 2019 when it was bought by InfraStrata.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Wood said: “We were disappointed to read this article and the reaction it has caused, given that we have grown the business to become a major player in the UK shipbuilding sector, whilst spreading our risk over multiple markets.

“Our EDG application has not been rejected and continues to be work in progress.

“I expect to be providing a fuller update on our refinancing plans in the next few weeks.”

The GMB Union said its members were concerned at the report.

Matt Roberts, GMB National Officer, said: “The employer says their application for a UKEF Export Development Guarantee has not been rejected and the process is ongoing.

“Instead of inter-departmental warfare in the Tory Government spilling out and scaring workers, we need unequivocal joined-up support for our shipbuilding industry.”