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Northern Ireland firms told to plan for worst Brexit scenario

Companies are being told to plan for a no-deal Brexit
Companies are being told to plan for a no-deal Brexit
Conor Lambe
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Northern Ireland businesses have been told they need to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.

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The message emerged from Danske Bank's Planning for Brexit event, which took place in Belfast yesterday amid the fast-changing political situation in Westminster.

Around 120 businesses attended the event at the lender's flagship Donegall Square branch.

Speaking at the event, Danske Bank chief economist Conor Lambe said that it was now very difficult to predict whether there would be a deal, no-deal, an extension of the Article 50 process, a general election before October 31 or an election after the current deadline for leaving.

"The Brexit process is becoming increasingly unpredictable with a number of potential options all still possible," he said.

"But with less than two months to go, businesses should behave prudently and prepare for a no-deal Brexit so they are as ready as they can be in case this worst case scenario becomes reality on October 31."

The lender's head of treasury and markets, John-Paul Coleman, said a no-deal outcome would likely send the value of sterling lower, creating more volatility for businesses exposed to currency changes.

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But he also said the current low interest rate environment, which has also been driven by slow global growth, trade wars and international political uncertainty, represented an opportunity for businesses to gain some certainty by considering fixing interest rates on their borrowing.

"We still recommend you hope for the best and plan for the worst," Mr Coleman said.

"It's not a time to pause for thought, but to look at whether you have a currency risk exposure and over what time period.

"Where exchange rates are concerned there is always a temptation to think 'it's going my way' and waiting for longer, but businesses need to stick to their budget and be disciplined enough to close out exposures when budget is hit."

The Planning for Brexit event also heard from Grant Thornton's tax partner Peter Legge, alongside its director of business risk services, Frankie Cronin, director of indirect taxes, Lee Squires, and director of people and change, Anne Phillipson.

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