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Business warns that growth has halted due to Brexit uncertainty

Leave and remain protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, ahead of the latest round of debates in the House of Commons concerning Brexit issues.
Leave and remain protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, ahead of the latest round of debates in the House of Commons concerning Brexit issues.

BY Alan Jones

Growth in the UK economy has almost "ground to a halt" amid the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, according to a survey.

Research by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) suggested that exports, orders, investment and cashflow were all being hit by the impasse of the UK leaving the EU, as well as rising business costs and a slowing global economy.

A poll of 7,000 businesses, employing around one million workers, indicated that services and manufacturing firms were being negatively affected.

The study, covering the first three months of the year, showed that business was "hitting the brakes", said the BCC.

The lack of clarity over the UK's future relationship with the EU is continuing to weigh on investment intentions in both the manufacturing and services sectors, said the report.

The BCC has been calling for an end to the "relentless uncertainty" over Brexit, which it warns has damaged business confidence and investment plans.

Suren Thiru, the BCC's head of economics, said: "Our latest survey suggests that UK growth nearly ground to a halt in the first quarter of 2019, with increasing anxiety over Brexit and weakening global economic conditions driving a significant deterioration in almost all the key indicators in the quarter.

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"The services sector suffered the more substantial loss of momentum in the first quarter, with both domestic and international activity slowing sharply in the quarter.

"The manufacturing sector continues to struggle amid tougher global and domestic trading conditions and rising cost pressures."

BCC director general Dr Adam Marshall added: "Our findings should serve as a clear warning that the ongoing impasse at Westminster is contributing to a sharp slowdown in the real economy across the UK. Business is hitting the brakes - hard.

"These are some of the weakest figures we've seen in nearly a decade, and that's no coincidence. The prospect of a messy and disorderly exit from the EU is weighing heavily on the UK economy, and must still be avoided."

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