Fencing around the European Investment Bank-funded Metrolink extension works being carried out by Anglo-Dutch-French consortium MPact Thales, composed of Laing O'Rourke, VolkerRail and the Thales Group, carry warning signs outside Manchester Town Hall, official venue for the election decision announcement, this morning
Fencing around the European Investment Bank-funded Metrolink extension works being carried out by Anglo-Dutch-French consortium MPact Thales, composed of Laing O'Rourke, VolkerRail and the Thales Group, carry warning signs outside Manchester Town Hall, official venue for the election decision announcement, this morning

EU: Industry enters period of uncertainty

The first comments coming in from business leaders forecast short-term damage to the economy and call for a clear plan to reassure investors.

John Hall, chief executive of Professional Liverpool said: “The majority of our members wanted to stay in the EU and so there is bound to be a period of uncertainty now as Britain stands alone. To this effect, it’s more important than ever for us to regroup, respect this decision and unite as a country. We need to look to this as a new opportunity to govern the country and have a clear focus on continuing and building on business prosperity for the future.”

Prof Diane Coyle, professor of economics at Manchester, said: “The UK is in for a long period of great uncertainty, which in itself damages the economy because people hold off on their planned spending.

“The fall in the pound will have immediate effects, making Britons’ overseas holidays more expensive and tending to push up prices of imports like food. We will probably quite soon see reduced investment by foreign businesses.

“People should be under no illusion that the vote is a bad outcome in terms of the economy for the foreseeable future.”

Randeesh Sandhu, chief executive of London-based residential development lender Urban Exposure: “While markets may react negatively to today’s ‘Leave’ vote, the fundamentals underpinning the UK housing market still remain attractive. In the short-term, while there may be an impact on decision-making and activity levels, we also expect to see an increase in interest from foreign investors if sterling devalues to the extent many have predicted.

“Indeed, the UK still has unique appeal as a market for international purchasers – from the mixture of characteristics including our quality of life, culture and diversity, ownership security and legal system, time zone advantages for international business, language, schooling and education.

“A return to ‘business as usual’ may take longer than if we had remained, as the specifics of a ‘Brexit’ will take time to determine and therefore there will continue to be a period of uncertainty. It is important that the government pays close attention to the key risks that could affect the sector during these talks – for example, the impact on the supply of labour, which could further exacerbate the acute shortages of skilled workers for UK construction firms if Brexit restricts migration from the EU into the UK.

“Change will come out of the UK leaving the EU, but the imbalance between demand and supply in the UK housing market will endure.

“So while buyers may pause as the implications of Brexit are figured out, over the medium to long-term we do not expect housing markets to change drastically as a result of the vote.”

Jane Parry, managing partner and head of tax at PM+M, accountants in Blackburn: “We are now in uncharted territory and likely to see continuing instability across the economy and political arena for some time to come.

“For North West businesses, which desperately need the confidence and certainty to be able to plan ahead, that isn’t likely to be in place any time soon. That is particularly the case for businesses which rely on export markets, but the effect is likely to be felt across the whole business community and economy.

“The immediate priority for businesses is to understand what they can do to give comfort and confidence to investors and funders and to start to put a plan in place to navigate the business through the next two years.

“For private investors and those who rely on investment income, the immediate advice has to be to sit tight and not make any immediate decisions. Get some advice once the initial post-result turbulence has settled down and then start to make some informed decisions.”

Stephen Cowperthwaite, regional senior director of the Liverpool office of Bilfinger GVA: “As we are already witnessing, the vote to leave will present a changing market dynamic, with a period of uncertainty at least in the short term.

“What is certain in the short term is that we will see a negative impact on trade volumes, foreign direct investment levels, exchange rates and borrowing costs. It is vital therefore that Government moves decisively to set out how the UK navigates through this new economic landscape, and so allows us to reach a more certain and stable outlook in the medium to long-term.”

Tim Cameron-Jones, head of the North, Cushman & Wakefield: “The property industry in the North of England will need to take stock of the consequences of the ‘Leave’ vote. I believe the economic uncertainty will have an impact on property markets, however the region as a whole still represents an attractive value proposition for many investors.

“Overseas investors should see the short term weakness of the pound as an opportunity to buy and to enhance their longer term returns. Occupiers will be motivated to move by factors which are unchanged by the vote, such as lease events, business growth and the opportunity to trade up into higher quality, better value stock.”

Simon Lay, director at Manchester-based fire engineer Olsson UK, a subsidiary of a group headquartered in Australia and New Zealand (ANZ): “The macroeconomic impact cannot be underestimated but I’m confident that our ability to deliver work on the continent in Europe will continue. As a start-up with the backing of an ANZ parent company we have the agility to adapt to what will inevitably be a changing commercial framework.

“Our appreciation for global commerce also means I am passionate about transient career opportunities so I hope Brexit will lead to an overhaul of the UK’s visa processes – inevitably opening up more opportunities for people to come to work in the UK from the US and Asia.”

Josh Owens, senior account manager, Remarkable Engagement: “What are the consequences for the idea of the Northern Powerhouse? Politically, the result may prove to be a fatal blow for its author, the Chancellor, the driving force behind devolution deals. Investment was to be the lifeblood of the Northern Powerhouse, but the UK no longer looks like a good gateway to the EU. Without inward investment, and without George Osborne in Number 11, there will be fears that the vision could crumble.”

Stephen Beech, owner of Beech Holdings: “We’re gutted about the result. When I walked into the office this morning several staff members from both Britain and other countries in Europe were in tears. Tensions and emotions are high in offices across the country at the moment and markets are volatile.

“While we are disappointed by the result, it reassures me that Manchester as a city voted to remain rather than leave. Sadly that wasn’t the case in other areas, but what we need now is strong political leadership. It looks like David Cameron will stay on until October; he and others need to take a lead on negotiations to ensure our economic and social conditions are strong going forward.

“I still think the property sector here will continue to do well as it has the safest and strongest legal system.”

Matthew Scrimshaw, head of North, Lambert Smith Hampton: “Today’s announcement is not what a lot of investors and developers will have wanted. However, while it’s true that investors dislike uncertainty, history tells us that changing markets provide opportunity and there’s certainly plenty to build on across the Northern Powerhouse.

“As politicians figure out what the consequences are, the lack of an obvious market consensus in the short term presents opportunities for those who know where to look.  We saw it during the financial crisis a few years ago, when smart investors spotted undervalued assets and then benefited from strong returns as the rest of the market caught up, as evidenced by the significant increase in northern-based foreign direct investment projects.

“For anyone looking to take advantage of the opportunities that Brexit will inevitably present, I’d encourage you not to skimp on good due diligence or local market insight. Knowing your market will be more important than ever.”

George Downing, founder of the Downing property group: “I’m shocked and surprised that we’ve won – the polls had been suggesting otherwise. People need to stay calm. There will be some turbulence but we are now in a position to negotiate and deal with Europe more on our own terms. It’s disappointing that David Cameron has made the announcement about stepping down so soon. I understand why he’s done that but it’s not immediately helpful.

“The UK is attractive from a property investment perspective and it’s also a great place for students from overseas to learn, and that reality is not changed by today’s events.”

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