Brexit concern prompts 40 per cent of north's businesses to delay investment
ALMOST 40 per cent of the north's small-to-medium sized businesses have cancelled or delayed investment plans because of Brexit, according to a high street bank's latest survey.
But despite increased uncertainty about a no deal scenario, only ten per cent of the region's firms expect a hard border, compared to nearly a quarter three months previously.
The AIB Brexit Sentiment Index shows how companies in the Republic are cautious about investment, with 38 per cent of those surveyed either cancelling or postponing their investment plans due to Brexit.
The research shows that 56 per cent of SMEs (small-to-medium-sized enterprises) in the north and and 52 per cent of their counterparts in the Republic have yet to begin Brexit planning.
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Almost two thirds (62 per cent) of northern businesses surveyed believe the UK leaving the EU would have a negative impact on their business, the number rising to 68 per cent south of the border.
Brian Gillan of AIB-owned First Trust Bank said that despite the conclusion of negotiations on the withdrawal agreement and the subsequent deliberations at Westminster, there has been no significant change in perceptions about the impact of Brexit in the north and only a "slight improvement" in the Republic.
"For most SMEs on both sides of the border, Brexit is apparently more of a future threat than a current reality – right now with this lack of visibility, and concern about future business impact and the potential for wider economic impact weighing heavily on sentiment," he said.
"Insofar as Brexit has already disrupted businesses, currency fluctuations have had the most tangible impact in Northern Ireland, with 41 per cent of companies reporting that Brexit has already made their cost of sales higher, with the tourism sector most impacted at 50 per cent, even if a relatively favourable tourism environment may have masked the full impact of Brexit so far."
Mr Gillen said bank lending in the north had been affected by the postponment of investment plans.