Builders in Northern Ireland warn a controlled border after Brexit is likely to hit purchasing and hiring policies

220px irish border on the lenamore road   611778

Small building firms in Northern Ireland fear a ‘hard border’ between the region and the Irish Republic will dent their business prospects once the UK leaves the EU in 2019.

A survey of 250 members of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) found more than half of respondents said such a border, featuring customs posts and vehicle checks, would negatively affect their ability to buy products and materials in the Republic.

The FMB said that almost half of construction firms in NI bought items south of the border, while around a third employed staff who lived in the Republic.

And a hard border would hit the ability to hire workers from Northern Ireland’s southern neighbour, according to 40% of the survey’s respondents.

Brian Berry, the FMB’s chief executive, warned a hard border would inevitably dampen growth among small construction firms who work in an industry worth £2.4bn.

“Anything that interferes with companies’ ability to cross the border quickly and easily must be dealt with sensitively,” he said.

And the depreciation of sterling since last year’s referendum had squeezed margins for a third of small firms, Berry added.