MALAISE over Brexit has - regardless of the final outcome - already hurt business in the region, according to the Business West regional report for the final quarter of 2018.

The Business West Local Business Survey showed 2018 closed with disappointing results for businesses, with the uncertainty over Brexit already taking its toll.

Most alarming were businesses reporting export sales and orders were down 17 per cent on last year, with smaller drops in the business taking on more workers.

In addition, in the event of a no-deal Brexit more than 45 per cent of businesses said they didn't know what action they might take and more than 41 per cent couldn't answer either way when asked if they felt prepared for Brexit in March.

Phil Smith, managing director of Business West, said: “The regional economy looked to be on the up slightly in the third quarter of 2018, however, the year closed with some disappointing figures, with worries mounting over the current state of the Brexit deal.

“The silver lining to all this in previous surveys has been export orders and export sales, but these were both down 17 per cent year-on-year, showing that our trading partners overseas just cannot commit to buying British until a Brexit deal is tied up, with many having jumped ship from their UK suppliers many months ago.

"A fall in domestic sales and with growth in domestic orders grinding to a halt, the rather gloomy growth outlook for the UK economy shows no signs of letting up."

Respondents left further comments on how the political deadlock has affected trade and even lost them customers.

One business in Wiltshire wrote: "So far Brexit has lost us all our existing EU customers, we don't expect to pick up any to replace them after Brexit actually happens. The economy has slowed because of Brexit, and we anticipate this will get worse.

"Our regular customers are hiding back spending to see how bad Brexit will be, so our business has been slowed."

The survey asked around 300 businesses from Swindon, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire between November 16 and December 17 for their views on key indicators of the economy and Brexit.