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Accountants voice frustration over Brexit and Stormont talks impasse


Niall Harkin, Ulster Society chairman

Niall Harkin, Ulster Society chairman

Niall Harkin, Ulster Society chairman

Uncertainty around Brexit and the Stormont stalemate have "gone on too long" and politicians need to "get real" about the UK's exit from the European Union, a new survey of accountants has said.

An overwhelming majority of the 400 professionals who took part in the Chartered Accountants Ulster Society survey said the lack of a functioning devolved Executive was having a strongly negative effect on the local economy.

On Brexit, 69% rejected a hard border.

And 64% said it was critical that any deal should protect the common travel area with the Republic.

Eighty-five per cent said our democratic deficit was having a "negative" or "very negative" effect on the regional economy.

Nine out of 10 respondents said the lack of an Executive was having a "negative" or "very negative" effect on business confidence.

And 85% said that it was negatively impacting on business investment decisions.

Nine out 10 of those surveyed said that stalled devolution had a "negative" or "very negative" effect on the provision of public services (91%), and on government spending decisions (93%).

As regards the immediate future, the survey revealed a "subdued sense" of growth for the local economy in the year ahead.

Some 45% expect slow growth (down from 60% in 2017) and 29% said the economy will remain stagnant (up from 21% in 2017).

Niall Harkin, chairman of Chartered Accountants Ulster Society, said its members were "sending a strong message that they feel the democratic deficit in Northern Ireland has gone on too long".

He added: "It is having a negative effect on the economy, on local services and on Northern Ireland's position in Brexit negotiations.

"We believe that Northern Ireland is a great place to live and a great place to do business.

"But there is considerable frustration and anger over what is happening on Brexit and the local political stalemate.

"The profession is urging local political parties to get back to work at Stormont to deliver good government for all our people.

"This is the strongest response from members that we have had in our 10 years of running this survey."

And Mr Harkin added: "My colleagues are also delivering a firm and forthright message on Brexit.

"We don't want to be disadvantaged, held back or impacted negatively."

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