The UK has now agreed a deal with the EU, and new rules that affect the way your business trades with Europe started on January 1.
Many businesses have been preparing for months for the transition, so if you haven’t done so it’s important you don’t get left behind. One easy way to make sure you’ve taken all the steps you need to is to use the Brexit Checker Tool at gov.uk/transition.
This will tell you whether you need to take actions such as preparing for new customs declarations, or checking if you need a visa or permit to work in the EU.
5 questions you need to ask…
- Are you ready for the changes to trade and customs procedures with Europe?
- Can you make customs declarations yourself, or will you use a courier, freight forwarder or customs agent?
- Do you have an EORI number that starts with GB?
- If you travel to the EU for work, do you need a visa or permit?
- Do you understand the new points-based immigration system?
Use the Brexit Checker Tool to find out what your business needs to do to continue trading with Europe at gov.uk/transition
Barry Leahey, MD of Playdale Playgrounds, exports equipment to 51 countries, including France, Spain and Italy, so early preparation for the UK transition was vital for his business.
“We started to prepare nearly four years ago,” says Barry, whose business employs more than 100 people in south Cumbria.
“When the vote happened, we said, ‘How do we get ready for this?’ We went back to business basics and put together a Brexit risk register, which was owned at board level and we revisited it every month. That covered things like movement of people, contracts, logistics and supply chain – which involved writing to each of our 80 suppliers to find out what their supply chain was, and we suggested that they all did the same to make sure that there was less risk.
“We did all the hard work years ago – looking into intellectual property and how that changed, and attending Government training and hundreds of webinars.”
Playdale uses a freight forwarder to help export goods to some countries in the EU, which cuts down on paperwork – and the company has taken advice from multiple sources to help things run smoothly.
“All the information is out there. You’ve got to do your research and put in the hard yards, but you only have to do it once,” says Barry. “There’s the gov.uk website, but there’s also the DIT; the CBI has an excellent website with lots of assistance, as does the IOD, and the local Chambers of Commerce.”
Careful preparation has certainly paid off. “I think everything’s going smoother than we expected,” says Barry. “Yes, there’s still a bit of friction around new documentation, but in time I’d like to think we’ll get better at it.”
For Jill Henry, from Edinburgh, who runs clothing company Meander Apparel, taking care of the little details was crucial.
“Focusing on the small things was a good place to start for us, like making sure that we had our EORI [Economic Operators Registration and Identification] number, which is only a quick thing, but you need it if you’re shipping abroad or to Northern Ireland,” she says.
“I would recommend that other businesses get on to the Government websites and have a look on there at industry-specific guidance. Take your time – and speak to the shipping companies, who have been very good at guiding us through the dos and don’ts.”
Jem Skelding, who runs natural health company Naissance, put in a lot of preparation looking at potential changes ahead of the deadline, as well as making sure there would be no staffing issues.
“We have a number of people who are European,” he says. “There’s been lots of information about what is happening with EU citizens, so we’ve been encouraging colleagues to be as proactive as possible. We’ve been quite fortunate in that our EU employees are generally long-time UK citizens or have dual nationality, so many of them have already settled here in the UK and have married British people and had kids here.”
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