There’s been a softening of negativity among local businesses concerning the implications of Brexit, according to Limavady-native and Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce, Ann McGregor.
Ms McGregor made the observation upon publication of the chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey.
“Last year ended on a more positive note after the initial, largely negative, reaction to Brexit in Quarter 3 of 2016,” she said.
“Our findings suggest that local businesses remain resilient as they continue to trade through the uncertainty, with many expecting continued growth in the months ahead,” she said.
While only one in four business said they had scaled back growth and local investment plans in Quarter 4 (Q4) because of the EU vote, which wasn’t as bad as one in three in Quarter 3 (Q3), the situation is still pretty uncertain.
For example, one in five businesses stated that turnover had fallen because of the referendum and costs were increasing for one in two businesses due to sterling’s devaluation, particularly rising raw material costs for manufacturers.
Ms McGregor said the rising costs were particularly hurting manufacturing across the North.
“Northern Ireland’s manufacturing base continues to struggle, with the significant rise in the cost of raw materials increasing the pressure on firms to raise prices in the coming months,” she said.
“The manufacturing sector also continues to struggle with long-term structural issues, with businesses continuing to report considerable recruitment difficulties.
“Business and government must work together to address the skills gap, while also ensuring that businesses have access to the workers they need, including those from overseas,” added Ms McGregor.