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Businesses told to prepare for ‘no deal’ with EU

The government is urging businesses to prepare for a ‘no deal’ scenario as the UK leaves the Brexit transition period without a free-trade agreement.

A government information campaign, titled ‘Time is Running Out’, will urge firms to ramp up preparations so they don’t get “caught out” when the transition period ends on 31 December.

It comes just days after talks between the two sides seemingly broke down last week.

On Friday, Downing Street said talks were “over”, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying that the UK will operate on terms similar to Australia. He then told the EU’s chief negotiator ‘not to bother’ coming to London for further planned talks today (Monday). However, there was confusion over the weekend as cabinet office minister Michael Gove told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Programme that the door was “still ajar” for further talks.

With around eight weeks to go until the transition period ends, businesses are still none the wiser on how the UK and EU will trade with each other. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said there was little surprise that businesses are struggling to prepare.

Director general, Adam Marshall, said: “Many firms will be tired of posturing, cliff edges and deadlines, while others are still grappling with fundamental challenges as a result of the pandemic.

“More businesses will undoubtedly step up preparations for change over the coming weeks, but many are still facing unanswered Brexit questions that have a big impact on their day-to-day operations.”

From 1 January, firms will need to adhere to new visas, work permits, customs procedures and immigration rules.

One of the biggest concerns is surrounding large delays for lorry drivers at the ports. It is thought that around 8,000 UK hauliers will need their EU customers, which total around 200,000, to provide the correct information to allow them to enter the EU.

“Make no mistake, there are changes coming in just 75 days and time is running out for businesses to act,” said Michael Gove.

“It is on all of us to put in the work now so that we can embrace the new opportunities available to an independent trading nation with control of its own borders, territorial waters and laws.”

The UK is leaving the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union at the end of the year and there are some definite actions businesses need to take now. These actions are required whether we end up with Australian or Canadian-style trading arrangements.

  • If you sell goods to the EU you must prepare for new customs procedures. Visit GOV.UK to check duties and customs procedures for exporting your goods worldwide from 1 January 2021.
  • If you travel to the EU for work purposes you will need to check if you need a visa or work permit and apply if necessary.
  • If you employ overseas nationals you will need to prepare your business for the implementation of the new immigration system. From 1 January 2021, if you want to hire anyone from outside the UK, including from the EU, you must be a Home Office licenced sponsor.
  • If you are a UK business or organisation that receives personal data from contacts in the EEA, you may need to take extra steps to ensure that the data can continue to flow legally at the end of the transition period.
  • If you provide services in the EU, you must ensure that your qualifications are now recognised by EU regulations to be able to practice or service clients in the EU.

The government has launched a service that allows businesses to get a personalised outline of what they need to do at gov.uk/transition.