Brexit hasn’t been bad for business after all, according to the Bank of England (BoE). Well, not in the North, anyway.
I went along to a breakfast conference hosted by the Manchester Chamber of Commerce (MCC) recently which included a talk by Bank of England Deputy Agent for the North West, Brian Sloan.
Sloan said the belief at the BoE is that we’re heading into a period of stability. Yes, growth will slow in the UK, from 2% to about 1.6%. But our economy will continue to grow.
Proof of productivity
In fact, thanks to events elsewhere in the world, the UK seems like a great place to do business, a notion which is backed up by research conducted locally in 2016.
At the conference, we heard about research by MCC, conducted in partnership with Duff & Phelps, which surveyed 341 local businesses about their view of the business landscape last year.
Titled ‘A Greater Manchester Business Perspective on a Post-Referendum UK’, the research included some fascinating insights.
It found 62% of businesses surveyed believed that they operated in a positive UK business environment in Q3 2016, only 6% less than in Q2 – before the vote for Brexit.
It also showed that 38% thought Brexit would bring reduced regulation. Another 28% believe that there would be access to independent trade agreements.
A number were concerned that benefits of being part of the European Union would be lost, including ease of travel (47%) and subsidies (35%).
But perhaps the most poignant result was that just over half (51%) believe Brexit has had no effect on investment intentions while another 72% say it hasn’t impacted on decision-making.
While some importers are affected by a lower pound, other businesses have benefited from the falling value of sterling: 27% have seen demand for products and services increase.
Ignoring the nay-sayers
And this research is backed up by what I hear from my clients, who say they feel confident about doing business in 2017 and beyond.
They can see that Manchester is doing well. It’s a city with thriving education, IT and construction sectors. And with London bearing the brunt of Brexit-mania, less people are heading South in search of employment opportunities.
There are challenges, of course. While employees are currently sensitive to the fact that companies need to keep a lid on wages to stay competitive, this won’t be the case for ever.
The UK is almost at full employment and we have under invested in developing skills in some key sectors, such as construction, in recent years.
And a devalued pound means the UK is not as attractive to foreign workers as it once was. So we need to invest in our own talent pipeline.
So as long as the government is as committed to investing in business as the private sector appears to be, we should thrive in the run up to, and following, our exit from the European Union.
How has Brexit affected how you invest in your business?