Survey suggests Brexit is biggest fear for Irish companies in 2017

CEO of Dublin Chamber says the overall sentiment among businesses is one of 'cautious optimism'

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Brexit is the biggest fear for Irish companies the year ahead, according to a new survey carried out by Dublin Chamber of Commerce.

25% of companies surveyed in December cited the UK's decision to leave the EU as their biggest fear for 2017 - the year Britain is due to begin formal negotiations to leave the union.

One-in-six businesses cited labour costs as their most significant concern.

15% raised concerns over skills shortages, while Irish political uncertainty, currency fluctuations and changes to US policy were also cited by those surveyed.

Meanwhile, 41% said they are more optimistic about the prospects for their business this year than they were 12 months ago. 31% are less optimistic, and the remaining 28% said their outlook is unchanged.

49% of respondents indicated that they expect to add more staff in 2017.

Mary Rose Burke, CEO of Dublin Chamber, observed: “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.

"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.”

She added: “The prospect of job creation is very encouraging given the amount of political uncertainty we see both abroad and at home. However, the overall feeling amongst firms going into the year ahead is one of cautious optimism."

Dublin Chamber public affairs manager Graeme McQueen said Brexit is not the only concern facing Irish businesses:

"Stuff closer to home was taking an effect on people’s minds as well," he said. "Labour costs were also a big issue and, interestingly, political uncertainty here in Ireland as well so lots to do and lots to address in 2017."