SME confidence takes Brexit battering

Confidence amongst Irish SMEs has severely deteriorated in recent months with concerns over Brexit, business costs and economic forecasts battering already fragile sentiment.

Confidence amongst Irish SMEs has severely deteriorated in recent months with concerns over Brexit, business costs and economic forecasts battering already fragile sentiment.

Latest quarterly findings from small and medium-sized business lobby group ISME shows that Irish SME business confidence plummeted 27% in the three months to the end of September. That compares to a modest rise of 1% in the second quarter of this year.

Brexit confusion, insurance costs and general economic uncertainty rank highest amongst SME concerns, but only 1% are upbeat over their employment outlook for the next year, compared to 17% in the second quarter.

ISME’s research shows that nearly half of SMEs expect to increase employee wages in the coming 12 months, while more than 60% have seen their motor insurance increase and around half have seen a rise in their public and employer liability insurance costs.

“There are no real surprises in business sentiment this quarter. It has declined markedly. Given the general direction of Brexit — towards a UK outside the customs union — global economic uncertainty, and the complete stall in insurance reform, small businesses are battening down the hatches,” said ISME chief executive Neil McDonnell.

SME lobby groups recently welcomed the Government’s plan for a new national SME and entrepreneurship strategy — based on less than flattering research findings around small Irish firms from the OECD — but stressed that a realistic timeline for implementation of key recommendations is vital.

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