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Still Unprepared for Brexit but Cross-Border Traders Surge Ahead

More Irish businesses waking up to the realities of Brexit, although nine out of 10 firms are still content simply to concentrate on their day job and are refusing to make plans for the EU split.

Figures in the latest quarterly business monitor from InterTradeIreland reveal a buoyant island economy, with cross-border traders surging ahead.

But the Brexit apathy is persisting, as 91 per cent of companies with cross-border sales still functioning in seeming denial.

Of them, 53 per cent say the uncertainty makes it difficult to plan while 35 per cent say they don’t believe it will affect their business – and the remainder insist they’re too busy dealing with the here and now to worry about Brexit.

The report, covering July, August and September, says companies trading cross-border are faring particularly well, with 31 per cent increasing sales over the period. Only 13 per cent went backwards.

But the growth is not translating into an upsurge in employment, with only five per cent of companies reporting that employment levels have increased during the quarter.

Overall, 96 per cent reported that their business is growing (39 per cent) or stable (57 per cent) which compares with 85 per cent this time last year.

Profitability isn’t good however, with 71 per cent of businesses reporting that they have a less than 10 per cent profit margin. Ten per cent are in the 10-20 per cent profit bracket, while four per cent claim to be in the 20-per-cent-plus profit bracket.

Skills was also flagged up as an issue in the latest monitor, with 22 per cent of exporters reporting a difficulty in recruiting the appropriate skills for their business, and for 67 per cent of that cohort, this difficulty was having an impact on productivity.

InterTradeIreland’s strategy and policy director Aidan Gough said: ‘A buoyant economy should not distract from the need to confront and prepare for challenges that lie ahead, especially in terms of dealing with rising costs, skills shortages and potential changes to trading relationships.

‘This latest monitor shows that over 70 per cent of businesses are operating on very tight margins and therefore carry a high exposure to rising costs.’

InterTradeIreland is currently running a series of major conferences ‘All facts: No Noise – Practical help to navigate Brexit’. The next event is in Croke Park on December 5, and it also has a suite of products for SMEs including a £2,000 Brexit ‘start planning voucher’ which allows firms to work with an approved panel of experts to devise a tailored action plan.

Mr Gough added: ‘While we encourage businesses to concentrate on operational effectiveness, we also are advising them to use this time strategically to look at the possible impacts of Brexit.

‘With a healthy ambition to grow reported by 51 per cent of firms across the island, we are encouraging SMEs to begin their preparations for Brexit, as this is the key to stability and success in the future.’