A survey by Engineers Ireland showed that nearly a third of engineers in Ireland and the UK said their business has already been impacted by a Brexit slowdown.
The survey, which canvassed the views of 3,000 Engineers Ireland members operating across both islands, also found over one-quarter of respondents have now changed their plans for hiring or investment, while over 38% have had commercial deals paused or unfavourably altered as a result of Brexit. Some 40% said they were proactively changing their business strategy to adapt to the new economic reality of Brexit, although most respondents remained optimistic that the major impact of Britain’s exit will not be felt for several years.
The vast majority of respondents were opposed to a ‘hard’ Brexit, while 43% said the currency crisis has negatively impacted operations following the UK’s referendum decision to leave the EU last June.
Of those who responded based in Great Britain or Northern Ireland, over 67% said they were less likely to trade with the Republic of Ireland because of Brexit.
Engineers Ireland director general, Caroline Spillane, said: “The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union colours every aspect of Ireland’s economic future, and the associated uncertainty and unease is already affecting the business activity of our members across the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Great Britain.
“In the forthcoming exit negotiations it is essential for our Government to ensure that there is as little collateral damage to Ireland as possible and that we maximise any possible gains.”
Businesses in border areas have already issued a warning about the growing number of shoppers now driving north to avail of the fall in sterling, at the expense of local trade. The all-Ireland Brexit forum is due to meet for the first time tomorrow, at which issues like cross-border trade are due to be discussed, even though the gathering was criticised just last week by the North’s first minister, Arlene Foster, who declined an invite.
Tom Healy, director of economic think-tank the Nevin Economic Research Institute, said while the full impact of Brexit had yet to be felt, there were already warning signs.
Writing on his blog, he said: “We are faced with a crisis in particular sectors and regions of the economy of the Republic.
“Something needs to happen quickly. Yet, we don’t know what to do. Nobody can directly control the gyrations in the sterling-euro exchange rate.”
Elsewhere, business leaders have been warned by the UK’s work and pensions secretary Damian Green to “assume nothing” about whether the UK will remain in the EU customs union after Brexit.
His comments came after another UK Cabinet member, business secretary Greg Clark, said the British government had told car manufacturer Nissan it wanted to negotiate tariff-free trade for the sector with the remaining 27 EU members, amid concerns voiced by the Japanese firm over possible losses caused by Brexit.
That had placed in doubt plans to build car models at the Sunderland factory in England.