Belfast Telegraph

Home Business Brexit

Brexit aftermath worries investors

By Conor Devine

I have spent the last week having many discussions with business owners right across Northern Ireland and there is one word that I would use to sum up their form following last weeks referendum. Gloomy.

It is in our nature to dislike change and there can be no doubt that by the UK deciding to leave the European Union, change is the one thing we're all going to have to get used to.

Right now most people are still in a state of shock, many unable to digest the fact that the Brexiteers won the day. What I have found striking is that on speaking to a number of people in Belfast who voted to leave the EU by way of a protest vote, now feel a sense of deep regret and fear as to what the future may hold for them, their families and their businesses.

This may well go down in history as one of the most important referendums ever to take place on these islands. And who knows but if it ultimately results in the break up of the mighty United Kingdom, is this a price worth paying to leave the EU and secondly, do the English voters who secured the exit actually care enough about the UK? How will the rise in English nationalism and the rumbling sentiment in Scotland go on to impact the people of Northern Ireland?

I have also been in touch with some of our funding partners in London to gauge their views on Brexit and perhaps more importantly how the referendum will impact their mindsets with a view to continuing to invest in Northern Ireland.

Over the last 12 months, our firm has secured over £150m of investment monies that have helped secure property development projects in Northern Ireland and we very much want to continue in this vein. The word from London is timid and reserved this week, but hopefully over the next few months the markets will settle and we can continue on sourcing funds and convincing investors they should still invest their money in Northern Ireland.

I think it would be fair to assume thought that by leaving the EU, it certainly makes Northern Ireland a harder sell - for a number of different reasons - but lets see how it all pans out.

Through it all, I will be keeping a close eye on how our indigenous banks respond to last week's developments. We already know that Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) lost 20% of its overall value last Monday, which is pretty catastrophic news for that institution, as if it isn't already in a precarious enough spot. The concern would be that if the banks start to pull their horns in as a result of Brexit (which we are expecting) then that will squeeze the economy even further and that is certainly not the preferred scenario for us in Northern Ireland

Over the coming months the dust will most likely settle but for the long term, we need greater clarity, direction and strong mature leadership to make the necessary progress we need to happen.

Conor Devine is principal at business advisory firm GDP

Belfast Telegraph