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Brexit: Single market access 'is top priority for Northern Ireland businesses'

By Margaret Canning

Published 01/07/2016

Concern: Michael Hall
Concern: Michael Hall

Access to the single market is the main priority for Northern Ireland business following the vote to leave the EU, it has been claimed.

Michael Hall, managing partner of EY in Northern Ireland, said clients had been surprised by the result and some had been hit by the fall in sterling.

He claimed the result would have no impact on EY's plans to take on 486 staff in business consultancy roles - a move announced two years.

But he added there was concerns among clients and said: "Now we're seeing a vacuum and volatility in the short-term, so currency fluctuation is a concern. Some clients might have hedged, some may have not.

"But in the medium to long- term, the political volatility needs to be settled, and hopefully we'll have more clarity on negotiations and on timing."

He said "entrepreneurial" companies with an eye on exports were feeling concerned about the future, even if in the short-term, UK exports were cheaper.

But he said he did not think Brexit would put off others from launching new businesses.

"Clearly there's an uncertainty and fear of the unknown, but I'm but not getting a sense of a dip in confidence," he explained.

And he said the prospect of a two-year negotiation period between the UK Government and the EU - in which the status quo would prevail - had ensured a certain amount of calmness.

"It is as it is," he said. "There will be uncertainty over trade agreements and the impact on consumer confidence in time - but that just as to unfold."

For now, firms feel a lower rate of corporation tax, to be introduced in 2018, will ensure Northern Ireland is attractive to investors, he added.

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