A new survey by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce has found that the UK's exit of the European Union is the biggest fear for Irish firms in 2017.
The survey, carried out in early December, found that 1 in 4 companies (25%) see Brexit as their number one concern when looking ahead to the coming 12 months. Labour worries also weigh heavy on the minds of business owners and managers going into 2017, with 1 in 6 firms citing labour costs as their biggest worry for the year ahead.
A similar number (15%) cited skills shortages as the biggest threat to their business in 2017.
When asked about the trading outlook for the year ahead, 2 out of 5 companies (41%) said they are more optimistic about the prospects for their business in 2017 than they were 12 months ago. Around 1 in 3 firms (31%) are less optimistic, with 28% saying that their outlook is unchanged from this time last year.
Around half of companies surveyed (49%) said they expect to increase staff headcount in 2016. A further 42% say that their staff levels will remain the same, with less than 1 in 10 firms (9%) indicating that they expect to reduce employee numbers.
In terms of profitability, 44% of firms say that they expect to be more profitable in 2017 than they were in 2016. Just over one third (37%) said they expect profitability to remain the same.
The Chamber’s Quarterly Business Trends Survey, carried out amongst 298 companies during the first 10 days of December, asked participants to state what they see as the biggest threat to their business in 2017. The survey identified the following, in order, as the biggest threats:
1. UK Exit of the EU
2. Labour Costs
3. Political Uncertainty in Ireland
4. Skills Shortages
5. Currency Fluctuations
6. Changes to US Policy
7. Increasing Congestion
Commenting on the results, Dublin Chamber CEO, Mary Rose Burke said, "It is hard to quantify the full effect that Brexit will have on the Irish economy, but the survey shows that businesses are still concerned about the potential for serious negative impact if the process is not managed correctly."
She added, "Given the close economic ties between Ireland and Britain – with over €1bn worth of goods and services traded between the two territories every week - it is vital that our trading links with the UK are protected, even as we maintain our strong commitment to Europe."