After four years of debating, talking, arguing, worrying, planning and preparing, an EU-UK trade deal has finally been struck, smoothing the British exit from the union.

It brings with it the one thing that businesses crave, particularly at the moment – certainty.

The no-tariffs, no-quotas accord will significantly ease the concerns of those that trade with the UK.

A no deal would have hammered many of the more than €13 billion of Irish exports to the UK each year, making those goods either less attractive or not attractive at all to British consumers.

Up to €1.7 billion in import taxes or tariffs would have been levied on those goods on arrival on British soil, with the agri-food sector particularly badly hit, as 38% of that category of exports from Ireland end up in the UK.

Average tariffs on beef would have been 74% for example, while cheddar cheese, half of which produced here goes to the British market, would have been stung with a 52% tariff.

Those importing from GB will also be breathing a sigh of relief.

Tariffs on those goods would have inflated costs and by extension prices, making goods less competitive in the Irish market, reducing share or forcing manufacturers or retailers to source them from elsewhere.

Overall, the Irish economy and national finances should be in better shape next year as a result. God knows we need them to be.

The deal should also mean the rollercoaster ride that sterling has gone through in the last few years should cease, making life a lot simpler for Irish exporters.

Stock markets trading in Irish and UK listed companies will enjoy some reprieve too.

Even though the market had in recent days priced in a Brexit deal, the overall calm and predictability will pour oil on rough waters as traders digest the reality that the Irish and UK economies won’t be as damaged as they might have been in a no-deal situation.

Of course, the devil will be in the detail of the 2,000 page trade accord, and many in business will now pore over the pages during the Christmas break to check exactly what it means for them.

Certainly not everyone will be happy with its contents and as with every successful negotiation there will be both winners and losers.

For them there will be little to cheer about.

Despite all the will-they-won’t-they pantomime, most in business had been expecting a deal to be struck, as it was the most pragmatic solution for all concerned.

The need for a resolution became even more acute in recent months, due to the severity of the economic impact from Covid-19 across Europe.

Indeed, in recent days the pressure piled on British prime minister, Boris Johnson, as the threat from the new strain of the virus grew in the UK and beyond.

Given that stark reality, it would have been a massive political failure on both sides if a deal hadn’t been secured, and one that would have stuck in the minds of many business owners and their staff for a long time to come.

Nevertheless, there will be a huge collective sigh of relief that agreement has been struck.

But while it is an early Christmas gift for Irish businesses, it is one of those presents they need rather than want.

Very few if any in Irish corporate life wanted Brexit to happen.

Apart from a minor enough influx of foreign direct investment and an incentive to search for new markets, there is little for most Irish companies to gain from the UK’s exit from the EU, particularly without a trade deal.

So while economic disaster may have been averted, there will be relief, not delight at what has come to pass.

Significant costs have already been incurred by businesses here preparing for every possible scenario and they won’t be recouped.

Massive amounts of time, thought and stress have been ploughed into getting ready.

Business owners will feel justifiably bitter that it ever came to this.

And while there is now a trade deal, it doesn’t mean everything is now ok.

Regardless, come January 1 there will be new costs and administration required.

Customs declarations and other forms will still have to be completed, checks will have to be carried out, labelling changed, new regulations complied with.

Queues at ports across the UK are expected, like those we’ve seen in recent days caused by measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 which gave a timely insight into what may lie ahead.

The UK land-bridge, used by 150,000 Irish trucks a year to move goods to and from Ireland, may no longer be viable.

Survey after survey in the last year has shown that despite all the advice and information, many businesses are still not be as prepared for that unchanging aspect of Brexit as they should be.

And so, while a Brexit nightmare before Christmas may have been averted, few in business here will be raising a glass to the situation, either tonight, or on New Year’s Eve.