Brexit the biggest cause for concern for SMEs

By Marita Moloney

Brexit remains the biggest worry for small and medium enterprises as business become increasingly concerned about the future.

44% of SMEs said they were worried about Brexit, with many trying to navigate in an uncertain business environment.

According to InterTradeIreland's latest Business Monitor for the last quarter of 2018, cross-border traders were the most affected, with just 37% reporting growth in the period of October to December 2018, down from 52% a year ago.

The report found that Brexit is also having a negative impact on business investments, with just 14% of firms planning to invest in new plant or equipment and only 4% considering spending money on Research and Development or new product development.

Until clarity is reached on the future trading relationship between the UK and EU, businesses are holding back on investment and planning, IntertradeIreland said.

However, there are other issues causing SMEs to be concerned which are not related to Brexit.

36% of small businesses said rising costs were a worry, while cash flow was an issue for 32%.

20% are struggling to recruit people with the necessary skillset, an issue that has been a persistent issue for bigger companies over the last three quarters.

There are many challenges facing businesses operating in a high degree of uncertainty, said Aidan Gough, InterTradeIreland’s Designated Officer and Director of Strategy and Policy.

While we recognise this makes planning difficult we encourage businesses, particularly cross-border traders to take a deep dive into their supply chains and logistics operations.

"SMEs need to assess if they are ready to deal with the bureaucracy surrounding customs and tariffs and to be aware of the regulations that govern their market and the impact of any changes," he said.

Meanwhile, businesses have been urged to contact their suppliers to ensure continuity in the supply of their goods and services after Brexit.

The Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys said it was crucial that businesses check their supply chains for vulnerabilities that may arise from Brexit.

She said that firms should make contact with their UK supplies to seek assurances about the supply of goods and services, and check if these suppliers use a landbridge to move their goods, as this may cause delays and increased costs.

The Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business Pat Breen recommended that businesses avail of the range of Government financial supports and advice available through InterTradeIreland, the Local Enterprise Offices and Enterprise Ireland.

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