Despite the C-word, business needs to start focusing on the B-word

PUBLISHED: 18:00 07 October 2020 | UPDATED: 18:00 07 October 2020

With just 86 days to go before the end of the transition period, most businesses are unprepared for what comes next   Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

With just 86 days to go before the end of the transition period, most businesses are unprepared for what comes next Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

In the first of a series of weekly Brexit Blogs, Paul Briddon of Lovewell Blake says that business has to turn its attention back to getting ready for Brexit.

Paul Briddon of Lovewell BlakePaul Briddon of Lovewell Blake

At the beginning of 2020, it was clear that one issue was going to dominate business thinking during the coming year: Brexit. The UK would leave the EU on January 31, followed by an 11-month transition period during which the minds of business leaders would be focussed on planning for life outside the EU, outside the Customs Union, and outside the Single Market.

Except, of course, it hasn’t turned out like that. Surviving the Covid-19 pandemic has been just about the only focus, so much so that with just 86 days to go before the UK goes it alone, deal or no-deal, most businesses are woefully unprepared for what comes next.

This isn’t really surprising. It’s difficult to plan when you don’t know what exactly you are planning for, and at the moment the only real certainty is that the transition period will indeed end on December 31. Even the already-agreed Withdrawal Agreement, lauded less than a year ago as an ‘oven-ready deal’, appears not to be set in stone.

A survey published by the British Chambers of Commerce last month showed that just 38pc of firms have done a Brexit risk assessment in 2020. Even for those which don’t directly trade internationally, Brexit will have a profound impact, from supply chain issues to the availability of overseas workforce.

Whether a deal is done or not (and despite the pessimists, it is possible that pragmatism will win out over dogma and a deal will be thrashed out at the last minute), the way UK businesses trade with the EU and the rest of the world is about to change dramatically.

Bureaucratically, logistically and legally there will be many hurdles to get over. This includes where businesses trade with any of the 77 non-EU countries which have a trade deal with the EU, from which the UK will be shut out on January 1.

It is understandable that coronavirus has had the lion’s share of business’s mindspace over the past few months. But with just 12 weeks to go, the spotlight has to turn back onto preparing for Brexit.

For that reason, over the coming three months, this weekly Brexit Blog will look at what businesses need to be doing to prepare for life outside the EU, and attempting to plough through the political spin and opaque negotiation-speak to bring you a clearer picture of what is happening.

Next week: The much-vaunted ‘Canada Deal’ – what would it actually mean for the UK?

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