Brexit is having an “increasingly negative” impact on business growth and investment plans in Northern Ireland, according to a survey published by the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday.
The UK’s looming withdrawal from the EU, as well as the lack of an executive in the Northern Ireland assembly, are two major factors contributing to “high levels of uncertainty,” the chamber said.
Nearly 80% of businesses believe that the absence of a devolved government will be “damaging” to Northern Ireland’s economic prospects in 2019, while some 50% say that Brexit is already having an impact on costs.
More than a third of businesses said that Brexit has had a negative impact on their turnover and sales.
The prospect of a no-deal Brexit is particularly alarming for Northern Ireland, with industry groups in the region increasingly making dire warnings.
In recent months, unions have warned that a no-deal scenario would “devastate” the region’s farming sector, for instance.
Meanwhile, despite the staunch opposition of the Democratic Unionist Party to the backstop proposals contained within prime minister Theresa May’s deal, Northern Ireland businesses have made it clear that they would prefer a backstop to a no-deal scenario.
The chamber’s Brexit Watch survey suggests that Brexit is also having an increasingly negative impact on the ability of local businesses to recruit non-nationals to fill roles, with more than a third of businesses putting growth and investment plans on hold.
In October, 21 of Northern Ireland’s leading business organisations wrote to May, urging her to tackle severe Brexit-related labour shortages in the region.
A report from the Migrant Advisory Committee recommended the drastic limitation of the post-Brexit immigration of low-skilled European Union migrant workers.
The Northern Ireland assembly, meanwhile, has been in a period of suspension for two years, following the collapse of power-sharing in January 2017 due to a disagreement between the DUP and Sinn Féin.