Leading figures from the North East’s business community have commented on the publishing of the Gross Domestic Product statistics for the Fourth Quarter of 2016, which saw growth of 0.6%, higher than the 0.5% predicted by economists.

Graham Robb, Chairman of the Institute of Directors in the North East, said: “The GDP figures are tremendous for our economy and it is increasingly obvious that people, like myself, who suggested Brexit would deliver an instant economic shock were wrong.

“I don’t mind eating humble pie if the economy prospers and we all need to work to make Brexit a success and ensure the worst predictions do not come about.”

Nigel Mills, Chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, said: “Much of the strength of the service sector, which is driving GDP growth, can be attributed to the UK’s entrepreneurial businesses. Entrepreneurs are committed to scaling-up their operations to increase employment opportunities, investment activity and productivity gains, which will deliver economic benefits on regional and national levels.

“However, entrepreneurial activity is not confined to the service sector and businesses, in sectors including manufacturing, are fighting hard to make an increased contribution to the economy. This challenge is achievable through a robust industrial strategy, which we encourage the Government to implement as quickly as possible to help rebalance the economy.”

Richard Hogg, Managing Director of Jackson Hogg Recruitment said: “The strength of our increase in GDP is positive news for the North East, and the UK as a whole, given the climate of post-referendum uncertainty and the need to go into negotiations with the EU in a strong position.

“The increase in the contribution of manufacturing to our GDP is great news, we have seen a buoyant skills market in North East firms and further afield.

“Interestingly the national contribution of oil, gas, mining and quarrying did not increase, but in our region we can expect to see a boost for these in the short to medium term. OPEC’s decision to fix the price of oil higher than it had been, and the new potash mine and gas production opportunities in North Yorkshire, will be positive for the economy and employment in the North East, both directly and in the supply chain.”

David Cliff, Managing Director of Gedanken, the North East’s leading executive and business coaching organisation said: “The growth in GDP is a strong indicator that our economy is roughly on the right track, especially the service sector, which once again shouldered the burden of much of the increase.

“To create sustainable growth in future, particularly in a way that is fair to the North East and other regions outside of London, the Government needs to gain a better understanding of small businesses and the kinds of support they need.”

Dave Robson, Regional Managing Director of Newcastle-based Henderson Insurance Brokers, said: “This is a welcome boost to the UK economy, given the post-Brexit slowdown fears. The professional services sector clearly leads the way in contributing to the country’s economic growth and it was encouraging to hear the Prime Minister talk about financial and professional services firms maintaining the freedom to provide their services across borders, in her recent address.

“This will allow insurance companies and brokers, among other professional services firms, to continue to contribute to the economy post-Brexit. There are testing times ahead, but the GDP growth is very positive news, nevertheless.”