News - Northern Ireland

As the Brexit vote approaches, both sides of the debate are digging deep to sway public opinion as well as that of business owners and investors on a national and international scale.

The arrival in the UK of the US Predsident last week, and the anticipated media circus that followed, did not disappoint the 'stay' camp - and equally entertaining and was the reaction to it of 'leave' lead campaigner Boris Johnson. 's reaction to it.

Few would disagree that the real Brexit mud-slinging is well underway and, in terms of commercial property activity, the pause button has truly been pushed as a result. The uncertainty over the outcome of the vote has investors, developers and bankers sitting on their hands until the dye of the referendum is cast and the resultvictor announced.

Much has been made of the Brexit vote, and rightly so, with arguments for and against being backed by significant business, political and economic figures. But Brexit is not the only hot topic that will have significant upcoming effects on the commercial property market - and some of the other factors at play would likely be headline news if Boris and Barack weren't above the fold.

Petrol and Ddiesel prices were once daily feed for newsreaders and, when prices were topping out at over £1.40 a litre between 2010 and 2014,  during this period interest in the cause and effect of oil and commodity prices was at an all-time high.

Conversely, and maybe to be somewhat expected, now that a barrel of Brent Crude costs less than half of its peak value and you can fill up for less than £1 a litre at your local supermarket, public opinion on the matter is not so peaked ... alas making the matter not so generally newsworthy.

As we hear world leaders talk of trade agreements, global markets and the effects of a Brexit, ' there is little heard about the knock- on effect, on industry in the UK, of the most significant decrease in oil and ccommodity prices since the global economic downturn in 2008. It’s just is not featuring particularly highly on the news agenda.

We all love the fact that our petrol, diesel and home heating oil prices have reduced but forget the consequent effect on our local industry. Over 40% of the world's screening and crushing equipment is designed and manufactured in Northern Ireland.

As a supplier to the global market, a significant amount of this plant is used for the extraction and refinement of oil and the exploration, delivery and production of other  similar commodities.

It stands to reason that lower commodity prices result in lower profits for the companies that provide them and this directly impacts their ability to invest in future operations. This ripple effect, the waves of which are just starting to lap up to the shores of the Northern Irish industrial sector, is that the demand side for our local output to these sectors has been reducing rapidly.

It remains to be seen if this headwind for manufacturers will be sustained or strengthened by the price of Crude staying at its current level or dropping further. Those down the food chain who supply commodity industries,  including the oOil industry, would welcome an increase in prices regardless of the effect onto the punter on the street.

... And therein lies the problem.; It may be's difficulthard for the man or woman in the street to swallow, but for the Northern Ireland industrial sector extra pennies at the pump mean and increasing commodity costs equate to extra pounds in the bank, and a sustainable future, for that man or woman in the street’s' employer.

Only time will tell - and the settling of the Brexit debate one way or the other will mean the record can start playing again., However,but whatever the outcome, the price of oil and other commodities, and their effect on the Northern Ireland industrial market, will be at least a verse in the song  - and possibly the chorus - regardless of whatever the result of the EU Rreferendum.

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