The end of the Brexit transition period is approaching, with less than 50 days to go until the UK officially leaves the European Union.
Concerns have been raised about the lack of business preparedness, with a British Chambers of Commerce survey released in September showing that many businesses are unprepared for the changes that 1st January will bring.
The report showed that of the 527 businesses surveyed, just 38% have completed a Brexit risk assessment this year, compared with 57% in 2019.
Businesses are also facing the added pressure of COVID-19, with a recent Business West survey showing that less than half (45%) surveyed were ‘optimistic’ or ‘very optimistic’ regarding the future.
While there is still ambiguity and uncertainty surrounding the end of the transition period and many challenges businesses will have to overcome, some companies have started taking the necessary steps so that they are in the best position they can be from 1st January 2021.
“It’s good to know where we are on the documentation side.”
Gloucestershire based company Glass Eels has been operating for more than 50 years and exports to countries like Germany, Sweden and Lithuania. Where it has to date done this without the need for checks or restrictions, it will now have to meet the requirements that exist for non-EU members and prove its practices are non-detrimental to endangered species.
The review is required to be undertaken by The Scientific Review Group, a constituent part of the European Commission who are responsible for evaluating and regulating trade. The company will find out the decision in the middle of December.
The company is however remaining hopeful that it will be able to continue trading with the EU post Brexit and has received support in the form of customs declarations training to get prepared. It has also signed up to Business West’s ChamberCustoms service to get customs declarations completed by the experienced team, to ensure it does not face delays and extra costs if they are able to trade with its partners come the new year.
Commenting on the situation Victoria Hale, the company’s Office Manager said:
“I had no idea how to do any customs declarations…but Business West has helped us understand what we have to do to get our goods out of the country (if we can that is)… it’s good to know where we are with the documentation side.
“But we will need to wait for the middle of December to find out if we can still export to Europe.”
“Trying to decide on Incoterms has been our biggest challenge”
Nicholas Hythe Kitchen Design Studio, bespoke kitchen designer based in St Ives near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, imports from the EU and has faced challenges with Incoterms,
These are a set of internationally recognized rules which define the responsibilities of sellers and buyers. They specify who is responsible for paying for and managing the shipment, insurance, documentation, customs clearance, and other activities.
It is of very little relevance for businesses trading with the EU currently, but on January 1st 2021, this will change and agreements will need to be reached between buyers and sellers.
Ross Halliday, Director of Nicholas Hythe said the biggest challenge has been
“Trying to decide upon and agree these Incoterms with our suppliers in the EU. This is something we have not had to consider and now suddenly we’ve had to understand what they are and which Incoterms we were prepared to agree to.
“We engaged with Business West pre-COVID. Catherine Stephens who has been our contact there has been endlessly patient. For us to try and understand the pros and cons of what we were looking for in terms of Incoterms, Catherine gave us information to help us shape our strategy.
“We could not have done what we have done thus far without your support.”
“Understanding the requirements has been important.”
Tudor Rose International is one of Business West’s longstanding clients. They work with several UK brand owners in food, drink, and personal care and operate as an outsourced export department. Their biggest challenge has been the ambiguity surrounding the end of the Brexit transition period.
The company has been working with Business West as well as receiving support from the Department for International Trade (DIT), so they “can stay aligned with everything” and “have somewhere to go if we have specific questions.”
One of the queries the company has approached Business West with has been the requirements for food and drink packaging and the need for food products to have an EU address.
John Stephenson, Commercial Director of Tudor Rose said, “we do a huge amount of labelling of products on behalf of companies. We knew that a lot of the companies wouldn’t have the packaging changes they needed on time, so it’s been hugely important for us to understand the requirements around this.”
“We work very closely with Business West to make sure we have as much expert opinion as possible. Business West has been very good at pointing us to a variety of sources and helping us to crystallise our understanding of what is required.”
If you wish to register your interest in ChamberCustoms, you can visit this link or check out our Trading through Brexit hub to find out more information about how your business can prepare for the end of the transition period.