SMEs 'delaying investment plans' due to Brexit uncertainty
Two-thirds of Northern Ireland small to medium-sized firms with investment plans have either cancelled or postponed them due to Brexit, it's been claimed.
The AIB Brexit Sentiment Index for the third quarter also said that 47% of Northern Ireland SMEs have been harmed by uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
Around 45% in the Republic also said they'd already experienced a negative impact from Brexit.
And just under one third of SMEs here said they now expect a hard border, compared to 59% in the Republic.
Around 70% of SMEs were also concerned about the medium to long-term - though concerns were even more widespread in the Republic, where 86% of firms were worried about the effects on the wider economy.
Only 6% of SMEs here had a plan for Brexit, along with 7% in the Republic. And half of all businesses here haven't started planning yet and nearly half are not confident that they understand what no-deal might mean for their business.
Brian Gillan, head of business and corporate banking at First Trust Bank, said: "With the continued political stalemate and uncertainty that abounds around Brexit, it is perhaps not surprising that the Brexit Sentiment Index has reached an all-time low here in Northern Ireland at -41.
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"Sentiment is down across all sectors but worryingly it is at an all-time low in the manufacturing and tourism sectors - both very important for the Northern Ireland economy."
"While we understand the reluctance of businesses to plan, given the levels of uncertainty we believe there is still value in considering the potential impacts of Brexit on your business - especially in a no-deal scenario."
He added: "Our advice to businesses is to continue to work with their advisors and trade and industry groups to make sure they are as best prepared for all eventualities."