Four out of five NI accountants say Brexit will have negative impact on economy

Chair of Chartered Accountants Ulster Society Pamela McCready said its members were concerned about Brexit and the current political situation in Northern Ireland. Picture by Darren Kidd / Press Eye.
Gareth McKeown

Northern Ireland accountants have warned that Brexit and political uncertainty will stunt economic growth in the year ahead.

A survey by Chartered Accountants Ulster Society has revealed that almost three quarters thought the economy was growing slowly, or moderately, with only 13 per cent viewing prospects for 2017 as 'good' or 'very good', down from 32 per cent in the previous year.

Of the 315 respondents 95 per cent cited political uncertainty as an issue with potential to negatively affect the economy, while four out of five chartered accountants believed that Northern Ireland will be more negatively affected by Brexit compared to the rest of the UK.

In relation to the Brexit negotiations 59 per cent of respondents said it was ‘critical' to protect the Common Travel Area with the Republic of Ireland, while 95 per cent were opposed to a hard border and 96 per cent wanted free trade to be part of any deal with the EU.

Cuts in government spending, concerns around the increasing cost of doing business and rising inflation also featured as negative factors affecting the local economy.

The survey has predicted a squeeze on wages, with more than seven in 10 expecting wage increases for the coming year to be below the current rate of inflation

On a more encouraging note, 37 per cent of those surveyed identified an improving global outlook as a potential upside.

Chair of Chartered Accountants Ulster Society Pamela McCready said its over 4,000 members were predicting modest prospects locally.

“The uncertainty created by Brexit stands out. Our members clearly feel that Northern Ireland may be more negatively impacted by Brexit than other UK regions and have sent a strong message that they see avoiding a hard border with the Republic of Ireland and free trade with the EU as vital components of any Brexit negotiations."

Independent economist Maureen O'Reilly, who formulated and analysed the survey of Northern Ireland's Chartered Accountants said the survey results suggest that the broad view of members is that Northern Ireland's economic prospects are "weakening".

"Uncertainty and instability are certainly weighing down on views around the performance of the local economy in the near term at least.”

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