Belfast Telegraph

Bank warns no-deal Brexit 'biggest risk to Northern Ireland economy for generation'

By Ryan McAleer and Jonathan Bell

The head of the Danske Bank says a no-deal Brexit would be the biggest risk to the Northern Ireland economy for a generation.

Kevin Kingston, chief executive of Danske Bank UK, said some businesses will not survive the UK crashing out and others would have to take "tough decisions" on the number of people they employ as well as consider their  investments. He said he was gravely concerned.

"A no-deal Brexit is the biggest risk to the Northern Ireland economy in a generation," he said.

The banker said that while a no deal was a "real possibility" he believed a solution could be found. Danske predicts a 1.2% growth in the Northern Ireland economy in the event of an "orderly Brexit". Mr Kingston was not prepared to give a projection in the event of a no deal but anticipated a "shock".

“As the biggest bank in Northern Ireland, we have a strong insight into how thousands of local businesses operate.

“We have engaged on an individual basis with many of these business customers in recent months to help them plan."

The warning comes as Prime Minister Theresa May is to make a bid to the EU for changes to the withdrawal agreement, in particular the hated backstop - something the EU and Ireland has outright rejected.

Some Cabinet ministers have indicated Brexit may have to be delayed in order to find a deal with the EU. However, Mrs May has stressed the UK will leave on March 29 and refused to take a no-deal off the table. A Commons motion on ruling out a no-deal was passed, however, it has no legal standing.

Mr Kingston added: “What we have seen is that larger businesses have been taking decisions to try to safeguard their operations, but the smaller businesses are far less prepared, making them the most vulnerable.

“It is these businesses that are of course the lifeblood of the economy in Northern Ireland.

“At this point I am gravely concerned about the challenges ahead should a hard Brexit become a reality.”

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