Growth statistics show Republic streaking ahead of North
Significantly more firms in the Republic of Ireland are enjoying growth than their counterparts in Northern Ireland.
An average of 45pc of firms in the Republic are enjoying growth, compared to 28pc in Northern Ireland, according to the latest InterTradeIreland 'Business Monitor' report.
It marks a widening gulf, even ahead of Brexit.
Overall, the report indicates that the economy across the island is in a healthy position, with two-in-five businesses in growth mode, and a further 54pc reporting stability.
However, despite the high levels of growth, with 85pc of firms reporting that they are working at or close to full capacity, only 6pc of companies surveyed say they have taken on staff in the last three months.
"While this may be a harbinger of inflationary pressures to come, it could also signal an unwillingness to invest, perhaps, until the uncertainty around the future trading relationship between Britain and the EU becomes clearer," Aidan Gough, InterTradeIreland's strategy and policy director, said.
Of the 750-plus business managers surveyed across the Republic and Northern Ireland, 98pc said that they were still not formally planning for Brexit. However, an increasing number of firms with cross-Border sales have started informal preparations in respect of Brexit.
In addition, two-in-five firms surveyed said that they had discussed the potential impact of Brexit with other businesses, while one in three has had internal meetings on the matter.
"With the economy in a healthy space, now is the best time to start looking at how Brexit could impact your business and InterTradeIreland is encouraging SMEs to plan, act and engage in preparation for Brexit," Mr Gough added.
Last week, figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) revealed that cross-Border trade between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland increased substantially in 2017.
Exports from the Republic to Northern Ireland increased by just under a fifth to €1.9bn. Imports from the North to the Republic increased by 17pc to just under €1.3bn.