Only one in five businesses here expect an EU-UK trade agreement to be reached by 31 December, a new survey shows today.

Businesses are every bit as concerned as EU negotiators about the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, the survey from Chartered Accountants Ireland shows.

The findings come as Brexit negotiations resume in London today. 

The survey also reveals that fewer than one in ten businesses are fully prepared for Brexit and just over one in ten understand the changes that it will bring to their sector. 

37% of businesses surveyed said they have some understanding but need further clarity on the official guidance.

Regardless of whether a trade agreement is reached, customs administration will be imposed on exporters and importers north and south.

Today's survey responses again indicated a knowledge gap when it comes to customs paperwork. 

Almost half of those surveyed by Chartered Accountants Ireland do not fully understand the customs declarations that will be required to trade goods between Ireland and the UK from January 2021. 

Chartered Accountants Ireland recently launched a Certificate in Customs and Trade to train traders and advisers to navigate the new customs regime that Brexit will bring.

Businesses surveyed also said that recent months have seen unprecedented challenges due to Covid-19 and about one in four  say that their focus has been unavoidably diverted from Brexit as a result. 

Cróna Clohisey, Public Policy Lead at Chartered Accountants Ireland, said that for many years, the EU has been a safe haven for Irish and UK businesses trading with each other, meaning little need for customs paperwork and declarations. 

"As a result, much of the customs expertise on the island of Ireland has effectively disappeared," she said.

Ms Clohisey predicted that customs administration is going to cost businesses. 

"This cost emerged as a significant concern for the businesses we surveyed, ranking second, behind staff costs and ahead of customs duties, as the biggest challenge in managing business costs in the next six months," she added.