Brexit prompts Northern businesses to put investments on hold

Companies are increasingly expanding in other locations, report finds

Brexit uncertainty reigns as businesses seek clarity from Westminster. Photograph: EPA

Brexit uncertainty reigns as businesses seek clarity from Westminster. Photograph: EPA

 

Brexit is increasingly prompting businesses in the North to put investment plans on hold at home and expand elsewhere, a new report has found.

Some companies said rising costs linked to Brexit uncertainty has already resulted in a drop in sales, while also making it increasingly difficult to attract and retain workers from other countries.

According to the latest Quarterly Economic Survey from the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) and business advisers BDO, there is a growing frustration among the North’s business community over both the issues created by Brexit and the absence of a Northern Ireland Executive.

The chamber, whose 1,200 member firms employ more than 100,000 people, said half of its members claim Brexit has had a negative impact on costs while 35 per cent also said their turnover and sales had been hit by the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Investment intentions among the chamber’s members are now at their lowest level since the Brexit vote.

The chamber believes that businesses in the North are “becoming increasingly negative around short-term business prospects in light of Brexit”.

Ann McGregor, chief executive of NI Chamber, said although there are still signs of growth overall in the Northern Ireland economy, it is not growing robustly.

“With little clarity on the trading conditions they’ll face in just two months’ time, some companies are understandably holding back on investment plans and making big decisions about their futures. The [UK]government’s absolute priority now must be to provide clarity on conditions in the near term and avoid a messy and disorderly Brexit – and action must also be taken to get the NI Executive up and running again,” she said.

Accountants warn

Separately, Chartered Accountants Ireland has also warned its members “not to be complacent about a Brexit political settlement” before the end of March.

The chairmen of both the Chartered Accountants Ulster Society and the Chartered Accountants Ireland London Society said that there is “no hard evidence” that the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, which would avoid a hard Brexit, will be agreed on 15th January at Westminster.

Both societies are now strongly advising businesses to “prepare for a no-deal Brexit” and with it the reintroduction tariffs and quotas on imports and exports between the UK and the EU from the end of March.