Risings costs fuelled by Brexit uncertainty will be a factor in the proposed closure of household cleaning products firm McBride’s Barrow factory, a business leader has claimed.

Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said the weakness of the pound since the EU referendum in 2016 had dealt a blow to the business – as well as the shift in consumer preferences that McBride bosses have said led to the shock decision.

Last month McBride announced plans to shut its manufacturing facility in Park Road with a potential loss of 106 jobs – a move described by business and political leaders as a significant blow to Barrow.

It blamed the move on a fall in demand for the laundry powders manufactured at the site, with the detergent market shifting toward liquids.

While McBride is not expanding on its initial statement, it is understood that Brexit was not, directly, part of the reasoning behind the realignment of the company’s manufacturing footprint “in order to remain competitive” that led to the decision.

But Mr Johnston believes the ripple effect of Brexit uncertainty was a factor.

“It is in part due to changing consumer preferences, as people switch from laundry powers to liquids, but we know too that the company has been hit by rising costs due to the weakness of the pound since the EU referendum in 2016,” he said.

“Sterling weakness has affected many businesses that depend on imported goods or raw materials, but some are better able to pass on higher costs by raising their prices.

“McBride is a major supplier of private-label goods for supermarkets. That’s a very competitive market and scope to raise prices is limited. As a result, its profitability has been squeezed.

“It’s businesses like McBride – that are part of complex, highly-competitive supply chains – that are suffering most from prolonged Brexit uncertainty,” he added.

McBride bosses have been keeping a close eye on overheard costs in a challenging and changing consumer market, and there have been clutches of job losses at the McBride factory in Barrow in recent years.

Staff at the site are currently being consulted on a plan that could see the factory shut in the summer next year.

In September, the McBride revealed profits had fallen by £8.8 million, despite an increase in revenues to £721.3m, for the year ending June 30, 2019.

And it expects revenues to be flat in the current financial year.

The comments come as the Unite union warned that the UK manufacturing sector is becoming ‘zombiefied’ as businesses lay off staff, cut back production and hold back on investment due to Brexit uncertainty – a belief shared by organisations such as the British Chamber of Commerce, CBI and Institute of Directors.