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EU referendum causing uncertainty for manufacturers, says industry body

By Margaret Canning

Uncertainty around the EU referendum has created problems for manufacturers in Northern Ireland, it's been claimed.

Stephen Kelly, chief executive of industry body Manufacturing NI, said firms were feeling unsettled.

And he said one manufacturer in the province reported that a commercial partner on the continent had refused to make a crucial decision until the referendum took place.

Mr Kelly said the believed a remain vote was in the best interests of manufacturing in Northern Ireland.

"It seems to me that the 'out' campaign has yet to present a coherent case on why we should leave," he said.

But he added: "The one good thing is that the referendum vote will be over and done with sooner rather than later.

"The debate has reduced confidence and impacted upon trade."

Mr Kelly spoke as a CBI report said UK factory output stabilised over the three months to April, although export orders remain a cause for concern for manufacturing firms.

The report said manufacturers faced "sizeable external headwinds", such as a slowing global economy and uncertainty over the UK's EU referendum vote on June 23.

A bright spot in the CBI survey showed that firms expect demand to lift over the coming quarter, underpinned by a weakening pound in recent months that is expected to boost export orders.

Mr Kelly said exporters in Northern Ireland were also benefiting from the weaker pound, making their goods cheaper overseas.

But he said there were concerned for companies linked to the extraction industry - sectors such as oil and gas and quarrying.

Engineering firms feeding into such industries were suffering from the effect of low commodity prices.

IHS chief UK and European economist Howard Archer said the CBI report was "somewhat mixed".

Mr Archer noted the expectation among firms that both domestic and export orders are expected to pick up over the next three months.

Economists argue that an improvement in foreign orders is key to sustaining the UK's economic recovery, rather than relying on domestic consumer spending.

Belfast Telegraph