Number of firms in North making ‘tangible preparations’ to leave EU

Chamber of Commerce says business setting up new operations outside UK or relocating

Chris Morrow and Ann McGregor of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, with Maureen O’Reilly, economist for the QES, and Brian Murphy of BDO

Chris Morrow and Ann McGregor of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, with Maureen O’Reilly, economist for the QES, and Brian Murphy of BDO

 

A growing number of firms in Northern Ireland are making “tangible preparations” to leave the European Union by establishing new operations outside of the UK or relocating, according to one of the North’s largest business bodies.

The Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce said latest feedback from its 1,200 member firms, which represent more than 100,000 employees, shows that 29 per cent of businesses now have a presence outside of the North or are actively considering establishing a new non UK base.

At least 60 per cent of their member firms have also reported that they are struggling to recruit workers with the right skills to come to Northern Ireland because of Brexit, which in turn is having an impact on the day-to-day operations of 43 per cent of firms.

According to the latest quarterly economy survey also published on Tuesday, by the Northern Ireland Chamber and business advisers BDO, business confidence in the North is plummeting because of the “negative impact” of Brexit.

The survey shows that exchange rates are a major concern for 52 per cent of firms and that there has been a big increase in the number of Northern Ireland businesses seeking advice on Brexit.

Less confident

Although many Northern Ireland businesses told the NI Chamber that they are still trying to grow “sales, exports and jobs” many also said they are becoming less confident about their turnover and profitability positions over the next 12 months.

Firms have also indicated that their they are pulling back on potential investments in Northern Ireland against the backdrop of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Ann McGregor, chief executive of NI Chamber, said the latest survey results should serve as a “clear warning” about what is happening in the North’s economy because of the impasse at Westminster.

‘Damaging impact’

“The damaging impact of Brexit is becoming increasingly apparent as Northern Ireland businesses face continued uncertainty around its outcome. Investment intentions are weakening further and businesses are telling us that they are setting up or thinking of setting up/relocating outside Northern Ireland.

“These are some of the weakest figures we’ve seen in nearly a decade, and that’s no coincidence. Business is certainly hitting the brakes. The UK government must ensure that a messy and disorderly exit is avoided and provide firms with certainty on future conditions to prevent further declines,” Ms McGregor said.