Businesses ‘hung out to dry’ without answers in event of unwanted ‘no deal’


Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, in association with the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), has published a list of 20 critical questions that remain unanswered for business in the unwelcome event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal on 29 March.

With less than 50 days to go until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, the publication highlights the many key issues that are still unclear for businesses in a ‘no deal’ scenario on 29 March – from what trade agreements will be in place with countries around the globe, to whether and how firms can move skilled staff between the UK and EU, and which regulations they will need to follow.

Many of the unanswered questions reflect fundamental aspects of how companies operate. For instance, the terms of trade agreements can affect pricing decisions, margins, even choice of business location and the geography of supply chains.

The absence of clarity and precision has already stifled investment and growth, and is resulting in unnecessary costs, inability to plan and, increasingly, loss of business as customers look elsewhere.

Business has been clear that it does not want a messy and disorderly exit from the EU on 29 March. While firms understand that negotiations are still ongoing, they are hugely concerned that the UK is not prepared for all eventualities – and that the sluggish and patchy nature of government planning for ‘no deal’ would become all too apparent in the economy if it is allowed to happen by default.

Chambers nationally - representing 75,000 firms of all sizes and sectors across the UK, employing nearly six million people - are demanding answers to these 20 questions. While government agencies urge business communities to prepare for all scenarios, BCC says they are failing to give firms the tools and information needed to do so. As a result, businesses risk being left hung out to dry.

John Bridge OBE DL, Chief Executive of Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce, said: “There is great frustration in the businesses I speak to that in less than 50 days their businesses could face the biggest change to their terms of trade in over a generation, without the information and clarity they need to navigate their way forward.

“There is a very real risk that a lack of clear, actionable information from government will leave firms, their people and their communities hung out to dry.

“Even those companies trying their hardest to get ready are still in the dark on important matters from contracts through to customs. Many others, who took the decision to wait for the political process to conclude before acting, would face sudden and costly adjustments if a deal is not reached.

“It is little wonder that many firms have been holding back on investment, stockpiling, and even opening offices and moving operations and jobs elsewhere. The imperative remains to avoid a messy and disorderly exit on 29 March, but businesses need answers they can base decisions on, no matter the outcome. The lack of clear, precise answers is now causing real damage to many businesses, and to the wider economy.

“Politicians need to get their act together now to ensure no further damage is done to our Local Area and UK economies.”

The full list of questions

  • What tariffs will my company need to pay when importing goods to the UK from the EU and rest of the world?
  • When will the UK Government launch an official market access database to provide this information?
  • If any trade agreements with third countries are operational on the day after Brexit, what rules of origin will I need to comply with?
  • Will I still be able to fly people and/or goods between the UK and the EU after Brexit day – or could travel be disrupted?
  • I know I will need to register for an EORI number. How simple will it be for me to register for any other new registration requirements or processes?
  • How will my lead times be impacted by new customs procedures?
  • Will any of the EU-FTA agreements be rolled over or replaced on a bilateral basis in the event of no deal?
  • Will I be able to use any trade preferences with any markets?
  • Will there be confirmation that I will be able to continue importing tariff free goods from developing and least developed countries under the generalised system of preferences (GSP) after March 29, 2019?
  • Will there be new safety and security requirements and inspections at the UK-EU border that my company will need to deal with? Where will inspections be held?
  • What system will I be using to input customs data – will HMRC’s new Customs Declaration Service (CDS) be ready in time for 29 March 2019?
  • What procedures will my company face trading between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?
  • Will this be different to operating at any other UK border?
  • Will staff spending longer than 90 out of 180 days in the EU be subject to further administration, costs or visas?
  • Will my business be able to move skilled staff members between the UK and the EU after 29 March and if so, under what conditions?
  • Will I need to become VAT-registered in every EU Member State where my firm has clients?
  • Which regulator will be overseeing my business after 29 March 2019, and what rules do I need to follow?
  • Is the UK government going to charge businesses for the creation of new regulatory agencies in the UK?
  • If my company is in dispute with another in the EU, what form of resolution and means of redress will be available to my business after 29 March 2019?
  • Will my business have to pay roaming charges in the EU after 29 March 2019?
  • Will my business continue to be able to hold and transfer data and personal information without any interruptions after 29 March 2019?

To read more information, click here.

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