Northern Ireland businesses revise plans after Brexit vote

Ann McGregor (NI Chamber); Brian Murphy (BDO); Maureen O’Reilly (NI Chamber economist) and Christopher Morrow (NI Chamber)
Andrew Madden

UNCERTAINTY was the order of the day as the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and business advisors BDO published their latest quarterly economic survey.

Despite the survey suggesting the Northern Ireland’s economy was growing, almost 70 per cent of the 270 businesses who took part said they have or plan to revise their business plan due to the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Both the services and manufacturing sectors performed well from April to June, with domestic and export sales improving for both. Employment for the services sector improved markedly, however many of these jobs were temporary.

However, from the report it is clear to see that while the economy may not be feeling the immediate repercussions of Brexit - indeed the fall of the pound has even struck a positive chord for exports – the future is what is making Northern Ireland firms apprehensive

77 per cent said they were unclear about the implications of the vote regarding EU trading rules and 75 per cent were also unclear as to whether compliance to EU directives and regulations in the UK legal system will be enforced.

Three in five members said they were in the dark over the future immigration status of EU employees.

It is still very much a waiting game, however, as while the majority of businesses said they had or expected to make changes to their investment, growth and recruitment plans due to the vote, they also reported that they are most likely to freeze plans as opposed to scaling them back.

The majority of commerce members also said they have or plan to hold a board meeting to discuss the referendum implications.

As the survey was presented to the press today, instead of advising businesses in the north to wait until the Brexit fog clears, BDO partner Brian Murphy encouraged them to adapt to the changes and ‘embrace the volatility.’

“Northern Ireland businesses are no strangers to change and over the years they have shown just how adaptable they can be,” he said.

“However, rather than stagnating, I am confident that businesses in NI will in fact make the most of the positives, positives such as the advantages our exporters and our hospitality sector are benefiting from as a result of the weaker pound.

“Furthermore, they will not sit back and wait for markets to stabilise, they will instead adapt as they always have and make the most of the opportunity.”

Ann McGregor, chief executive of the chamber, said they are working towards putting Northern Ireland businesses on more solid ground regarding EU uncertainties.

“NI Chamber, in a recent policy document, has called for ‘stability, clarity and action’ around these issues and the findings of the survey underline the need for this to happen,” she said.

“Businesses are clear that they require stability for markets and business confidence; clarity on the timeframe for key decisions and action to proactively support the economy at a sensitive time of transition.”


The quarterly economic survey is the largest survey of business opinion conducted in Northern Ireland and is closely watched by policymakers such as the NI Executive and British treasury.


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