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Survey: Brexit uncertainty 'starting to bite' UK manufacturers, services firms

With a few months left before the U.K. officially withdraws from the EU, uncertainty over Brexit and the country's future trading environment has started to hurt British manufacturers and services firms, according to results of a new survey that showed a slowdown in exports growth and difficulties in recruitment.

The latest quarterly economic survey of the British Chambers of Commerce, which polled 5,600 businesses from Aug. 27 to Sept. 17, showed that increases in export sales and export orders in the manufacturing sector have fallen to their lowest levels since the fourth quarter of 2016.

In the services sector, the percentage of companies looking to recruit declined to its lowest level since the first quarter of 1993, falling to 47% from 60%.

Among those that attempted to recruit, 72% of services firms reported difficulties, an all-time high for the survey, according to the BCC.

The balance of firms that are planning to invest in either plant and machinery or training also fell to the lowest levels in over a year in both manufacturing and services sectors.

"These figures reinforce what we are hearing from businesses up and down the country the uncertainty over Brexit, and the lack of bold moves to boost business at home, are starting to bite," said BCC director general Adam Marshall.

"It should be a matter of grave concern to government that sales and orders both at home and abroad are stagnating," Marshall added. "Weaker sterling is no longer proving a boon to many of our exporters, while consumer spending is failing to boost the domestic market."

Results of a new quarterly CFO survey by accountancy firm Deloitte also showed that pessimism over Brexit's long-term impact is at its highest level since the summer of 2016.

According to the survey, 79% of CFOs now expect the long-term business environment to deteriorate as a result of Brexit, up from 75% in the second quarter.

Last week, the latest sector survey by the Confederation of British Industry and accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers showed that sentiment among U.K. financial services firms slumped in the third quarter amid Brexit worries.