The British Chambers of Commerce has published a critical update of its Brexit guidance dashboard containing 26 key questions that remain unanswered with just 98 days to go until the end of the Brexit transition period.
The leading business group published the document alongside new research which suggests business preparation for the coming changes is low due to the unprecedented challenges facing them.
- 26 unanswered questions reflect fundamental aspects of business operations, including UK/EU customs checks and rules of origin
- Just 38% of firms have done a Brexit risk assessment in 2020, compared to 57% in 2019
- BCC seeks clarity for businesses and an immediate resumption immediate resumption of weekly business preparedness summits with senior ministers
The BCC’s Brexit guidance dashboard compiles 35 questions most frequently raised by businesses, many of which apply in a deal or no deal scenario. The BCC gives just 9 a green status, indicating there is sufficient information available to plan. 19 are amber, indicating some information is available, and seven are red, indicating there is inadequate actionable information.
Many of the unanswered questions reflect fundamental aspects of how companies operate. Among other things:
- firms do not know what rules of origin will apply after the transition period, preventing them and their customers from planning and potentially creating unprecedented new administration and costs;
- there is no clarity on how food and drink due to be sold in the EU and Northern Ireland is to be labelled;
- very limited guidance on the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland; and
- no information on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, key to ‘levelling up’ the regions and nations - despite years of calls for clarity.
Low levels of business preparedness
The lack of information for firms is compounded by new BCC research released today, which found that just 38% of firms had completed a Brexit risk assessment this year, compared to 57% in 2019 and 35% in 2018.
The research also found that more than half(51%) of firms surveyed had not taken any of the eight steps recommended by the government to prepare for changes in the movement of goods between the UK and the EU. This includes fundamentals of operation for trading businesses such as checking on the need for customs declarations and assessing the possible impact of changes on existing customers and suppliers.
The lack of information with which to plan and potential deadline fatigue presents further challenges to firms up and down the UK that have faced reduced demand, ongoing government restrictions and sustained cashflow challenges due to the Coronavirus crisis.
The leading business group - which represents 75,000 firms of all sizes and sectors across the UK employing nearly six million people, and works with over 30,000 companies that trade internationally each year – has written to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove seeking action for businesses and urgent discussions to help firms prepare.
BCC Director General Adam Marshall said:
“With just 98 days to go, business communities face the triple threat of a resurgent Coronavirus, receding government support schemes, and a disorderly end to the transition period.
“Significant unanswered questions remain for businesses, and despite recent public information campaigns, base levels of preparedness are low. Many firms say they've heard talk of deadlines and cliff edges before, and others are still grappling with fundamental challenges as a result of the pandemic and have little cash or information with which to plan.
“While we recognise that some of the questions facing businesses are subject to ongoing negotiations between the government and the EU, other matters are within the UK’s own hands. The government must ramp up engagement with business urgently – to the levels seen prior to previous ‘no deal’ deadlines – to ensure that the real-world issues facing firms get tackled immediately.
“The ‘Check, Change, Go’ campaign gives the impression that Brexit-related changes are like getting an MOT – whereas the reality is that for many businesses, they’re more akin to planning a moon landing. Businesses need honest communication about the complexity of the changes they face – and stronger encouragement to act.”