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Brexit uncertainty weighs heavy on businesses minds, survey shows

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Firms in the West suffered a big loss in business confidence during the first quarter of 2019, as Brexit uncertainty continues to weigh on businesses minds.

The survey of approximately 500 firms from across Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire also showed that UK sales during the period were down seven percent on the previous quarter and eight percent on the previous year.

Around one in three firms had also experienced a drop in European orders this quarter, suggesting that customers overseas are hesitant to commit to new spending as long as they remain in the dark regarding the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU.

Further to these key economic indicators businesses were asked a series of questions regarding the government’s handling of Brexit.

Fifty-five percent of businesses said that Brexit will have a negative or very negative impact on their business, whereas less than 8% of businesses think that it will have a positive or very positive impact.

Brexit uncertainty was identified as the primary issue facing 82 percent of businesses, whereas this time last year only 55 percent of businesses echoed this concern.

Commenting on the findings, Phil Smith, managing director at Business West said: “A bitterly disappointing set of results this quarter suggests that paralysis in parliament and Brexit uncertainty are having a dampening affect across all areas of business activity in the West.

“If these figures are to be believed, it appears that not only has the domestic market fallen flat, our global business is suffering as the UK’s exit date creeps ever closer, but without a clear signal from government that we’ll be leaving with a deal.

“It is clear that government needs to act to stabilise business confidence at home and abroad. Action is needed to get businesses investing again and to convince customers overseas that the UK is a reliable and attractive place to do business.

“As chaos reigns in Westminster, it seems businesses in the West are having to deal with the repercussions.”

Every quarter, Business West invites Chamber of Commerce members and selected local businesses to complete a survey, which provides a snapshot of business confidence and trading conditions during the past three months.

On a national level, results from the survey feed into the British Chambers quarterly economic survey, recognised as the largest and most representative independent business survey.

The survey is published in advance of official figures and other private surveys and is one of three surveys regularly reviewed by the Bank of England when setting monetary policy.