Protocol offers huge opportunities for Northern Ireland’s economy – body of accountants

The majority of accountants in Northern Ireland believe the protocol offers a huge opportunity for the local economy, although mismanagement of the process is damaging the province’s reputation.

A survey by Chartered Accountants Ulster Society found that 81% of its members are finding opportunities for their businesses as a result of Brexit, despite continuing problems with trade between Northern Ireland and Britain.

The Northern Ireland Protocol, put in place to allow free movement of goods across the island of Ireland, means there are now checks on goods entering the province from Britain and the half of those surveyed suggested it had hindered that trade flow.

However, the increased demand for goods produced in Northern Ireland from the Republic as well as the region’s unique position with a foothold in both the UK and the European Union, provide opportunities, according to investigation.

Very few – just 2% – believe Brexit has been handled well by the Northern Ireland executive, with the majority saying the protocol deadlock has damaged Northern Ireland’s reputation internationally.

One of the negative aspects of Brexit that continues to cripple some businesses is the talent shortage which, although a global problem, would have been exaggerated by the withdrawal.

Meanwhile, the survey revealed a positive mood among accountants, with two-thirds saying the economy is in growth mode despite a myriad of headwinds.

They pointed to rising energy costs, supply chain disruption and current political conditions in Northern Ireland as increasingly difficult hurdles to overcome.

Again, they were critical of the performance of the executive and assembly, with 78% rating it poor or very poor, 21% rating it fair and only 1% rating it good. The survey was carried out before the resignation of former Prime Minister Paul Givan.

Other key findings from the report are that more than half expect the hybrid work model to be more common as the year progresses.

Meanwhile, 44% of respondents said the number of companies in financial difficulty was increasing, with 13% saying the number was decreasing.

Pat R. Madsen