Belfast Telegraph

Half of smaller firms say Brexit already having negative effect

Bailies Coffee Roasters
Bailies Coffee Roasters
Stephen Green
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Almost half of smaller businesses in Northern Ireland say Brexit is having a negative impact on their business now, a new AIB survey suggests today.

The bank's quarterly Brexit sentiment index produced by Ipsos MRBI surveyed 200 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) here.

AIB's Northern Irish business, First Trust, is set to be rebranded as AIB by the end of the year.

The new Brexit report found that the number of NI firms reporting a negative impact rose from 42% in the first quarter to 48% in the three months to the end of June.

Just 6% of companies surveyed said Brexit was having a positive impact on their business during the same period.

However, some 22% of SMEs said they anticipate Brexit will have a positive effect on their future business.

But with the October 31 deadline drawing closer, the clear majority of smaller companies in Northern Ireland (59%) said they expect a negative outcome for the future of their operations.

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Bailies Coffee Roasters is among the Northern Ireland businesses which contributed to the report. The Belfast-based company, which supplies coffee shops and the hospitality industry, makes one third of its sales in the Republic.

The firm's financial controller Stephen Green said Bailies had reviewed the potential impact of tariffs on the business - likely to range from 7.5% for coffee to 12% for ceramics.

"Earlier this year we calculated the potential cost to the customer and based on this analysis we engaged with our accountants to explore the possibility of setting up a limited company in Dublin and selling from the company in Northern Ireland into this new entity and for the new company to pay the tariff." He said that the company has advised its customers that deliveries could take longer if border checks return.

"With most of its coffee machine suppliers based in the EU, Bailies placed a much larger bulk order than usual in anticipation of the original March 31, 2019 Brexit deadline.

"We may look at this type of bulk buying again if the UK looks likely to leave the EU by the end of October," he said.

AIB's survey also suggests that just over half (51%) of SMEs in Northern Ireland had not started planning for Brexit, with 17% reporting that it is already having an impact on recruitment plans.

Brian Gillan, head of business banking at First Trust Bank, said: "Given the lack of clarity in the last three years, we don't expect visibility to change dramatically within the next three months.

"Our advice to business owners is to take cues from the sectors they operate in, business groups and economic leaders and make sure they are planning with a view to future-proofing their operations for all eventualities."

Belfast Telegraph