Survey: Two-thirds of businesses have now adapted to NI Protocol

Two-thirds of businesses have now adapted to the post-Brexit trading arrangements, a new survey suggests. Picture by Mal McCann.

TWO-in-three businesses have now adapted to the new trading arrangements under the Northern Ireland Protocol, a new survey suggests.

The latest quarterly economic survey (QES) from the Northern Ireland Chamber showed 65 per cent of firms had adapted in the first quarter (Q1) of 2022, up from 52 per cent at the end of 2021.

Some 37 per cent of companies said they had ‘adapted well' in early 2022, up from 33 per cent in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2021.

Significantly, the number of firms who said they had encountered difficulty, but managed to adapt, moved from 19 per cent in Q4 2021 to 28 per cent in 2022.

The proportion of businesses continuing to experience difficulties remained at 21 per cent, but those reporting significant challenges due to the protocol fell from 16 per cent to just eight per cent.

Some 36 per cent of those surveyed said they had diverted existing staff to deal with the new trading arrangements, while 12 per cent employed new people to do so.

Another 18 per cent are paying for external support.

Economist Maureen O'Reilly, who analysed the survey, said: “There is a sense that businesses are starting to adapt to the new trading arrangements.”

She said when comparing the NI Chamber's survey to research conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce, it appeared GB firms who had initially refused to engage with the new arrangements, have now adapted as well.

“There has been a significant education and I think it has been Northern Ireland companies educating their suppliers.”

The survey showed one-in-three (32 per cent) of firms attributed increased costs to EU exit.

Ms O'Reilly said NI firms were not alone in the extra costs: “EU exit has come at a cost to all UK businesses, because it is a new way of trading.”

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