Belfast Telegraph

Majority of Northern Ireland SMEs feel Brexit will hit business opportunities

By Ryan McAleer

A growing number of small and medium sized firms in Northern Ireland believe their business will suffer from Brexit, according to a new report.

The Brexit Sentiment index from First Trust's parent company AIB, revealed that 62% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) here believe Brexit will negatively hit business.

More than 700 companies on both sides of the border were surveyed over July to September.

The level is up from 50% in the first quarter of 2018.

The quarterly monitor suggests that 63% of Northern Ireland SMEs have not started planning for Brexit, with just 3% indicating they have a formal plan in place.

Brian Gillan, head of business and corporate banking at First Trust, said: "There is little doubt that the lack of certainty as to what is going to happen is impacting decisions here - with 45% having postponed or cancelled plans and a further 13% having reviewed them.

"An additional 11% have said they have postponed bank borrowing as a result of Brexit."

Meanwhile two new studies by the Enterprise Research Centre (ERC) and Queen's Management School have suggested that the surge in Northern Ireland's entrepreneurs could be halted by a bad Brexit deal.

The studies said the number of early stage entrepreneurs in NI has grown by 75% in 15 years.

Professor Mark Hart, the ERC's deputy director, warned: "The danger is that unless we see a Brexit deal that enables the free flow of trade across an open border, we could turn the clock back on some of the enterprise progress we've seen of late."

Belfast Telegraph

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