Business confidence rose during the third quarter, however, Brexit remains the biggest concern for SMEs – especially for companies operating in the exports sector – according to a new survey.

The latest ISME Quarterly Business Trends Survey, conducted in the last week of September, shows business confidence in the retail sector is back into positive territory at 18%, and business expectations are also up at 29% from 18% in the last quarter.

Current employment levels have also risen, while firms are optimistic about future employment.

However, ISME’s figures also indicate economic uncertainty is at 31% among retailers, replacing Brexit as the biggest concern among retailers, but Brexit follows in at second at 19%.

Meanwhile, 49% of SMEs in the export sector expect negative effects on profits as a result of Brexit.

19% of manufacturers also see Brexit as the biggest threat to their business.

Commenting on the results of the SME Business Survey, ISME CEO Neil McDonnell said: "While we welcome the improvement in the overall business sentiment index for this Quarter, we highlight the need for the Government to do more to prepare for the impact of Brexit.

“The Budget was a missed to Brexit-proof our economy; mitigating effects such as the drop in sterling, which is now at its lowest level in five years."