February 3, 2020
The Government must take decisive action to support North East companies in the post-Brexit world and deliver on investment pledges to re-ignite the region after months of malaise, a business organisation has warned.
The North East England Chamber of Commerce says it is essential Boris Johnson’s new Whitehall regime secures a European divorce that supports firms’ continued access to trade and creates opportunities for fresh economic growth.
The warning comes after the organisation’s latest Quarterly Economic Survey – covering the final three months of 2019 – showed a decline in regional business performance and confidence.
According to the study, which represents the views of 3000 Chamber member companies on trading conditions and future forecasts, the North East ended 2019 in subdued mood – with uncertainties over Brexit and future trade arrangements principal concerns.
Revealing a further fall in export sales during the three-month period meant the figure remained at a low not seen for a decade, the report also highlighted a dramatic decline in domestic sales growth compared to a year ago.
It added manufacturers were faring worse than service firms on all scores, with a deterioration in cashflow – often a leading indicator of a downturn – highlighted as a particularly worrying finding.
Chamber president Lesley Moody [pictured] said firms have been left weary by political and economic uncertainty, causing confidence to dwindle.
“The results for the end of last year paint a worrying picture for the direction of the regional economy, continuing a trend we saw in the third quarter,” she said.
“In particular, investment has slowed down dramatically, while export sales continue to disappoint.
“The Government should see these results as a stark indicator of the need to secure a positive Brexit outcome that supports our international traders and to turn warm words on regional investment into swift actions.
“This survey was conducted during the December General Election campaign, and it is clear that political and economic uncertainty is causing real difficulties for business.
“We hope stability will now ensue and that confidence will return.”
The Chamber’s Quarterly Economic Survey is produced in association with Durham University Business School.
North East England Chamber of Commerce