Brexit shadow sees business rein back investment
With less than six weeks to go until Brexit day, issues of the UK's exit from the European Union are clearly at the front of concerns for businesses, but others - costs, cashflow and recruitment - are high on the list.
The latest InterTradeIreland Business Monitor, a survey of 750 business managers in the North and the State, showed Brexit was a worry for 44pc of small and medium sized enterprises, but rising costs were an issue for 38pc and cashflow was an issue for 32pc of firms.
"One in five is struggling to recruit people with appropriate skills. Attracting talent has been a persistent issue for larger companies over the past three quarters and has implications for businesses that want to grow," Intertrade Ireland said in its latest survey, the largest undertaken of Irish business.
So far, Brexit has been a boon for the fast-growing economy here as British companies, including the likes of banking giant Barclays, have shifted large operations here.
An estimated 4,500 jobs have been created here thanks to the threat of Brexit. But the economy is approaching its limits. Employment is at record levels and wages have started to rise more quickly, creating skills shortages.
The uncertainties over Brexit have caused a hit to the British economy, with company investment falling in each of the four quarters of last year. There are signs that uncertainty is starting to bite here as well.
Only 14pc of firms surveyed by Intertrade plan to invest in new plant or equipment and only 4pc are considering spending money on research and development or new product development.
This is consistent with businesses holding back until the terms of the new trading relationship with Britain and the EU become clear, Intertrade said.
"We survived the crash in 2007/2008, and it was crucial for us to be able to diversify by exploring the cross-Border market and introducing new products," Colm Gribben, from Viltra Wastewater Technology, based in Newry, said in the Intertrade survey.
"We are hesitant to take any big decisions until the outcome of Brexit is known."