‘Brexit ready’ campaign launches

With under six months to go until the UK leaves the EU, the government has announced a major new public information campaign for businesses, while research from the Institute of Directors (IoD) indicates only a quarter are fully ready for the end of the Brexit transition period

The government campaign, under the slogan ‘The UK’s new start: let’s get going’ is intended to set out the actions businesses and individuals need to take to prepare for the end of the transition period on 31 December.

Campaign advertisements with a ‘Check, Change, Go’ strapline will direct people and businesses to an online checker tool which identifies the necessary next steps they need to take.

These will run across the full range of communication channels, while the campaign will also see the launch of a field force team which will give one-to-one support in person or over the phone to businesses and their supply chains to minimise disruption to the movement of goods.

The campaign will target UK citizens intending to travel to Europe from 1 January 2021 and all importers to and exporters from the EU, alongside UK nationals living in the EU and EU, EEA or Swiss citizens living in the UK.

The government announcement noted that some areas of UK-wide guidance published will not be applicable for trade between Northern Ireland and the EU, until negotiations have concluded with the EU.

Initial guidance specific to Northern Ireland will be published in the coming weeks and will continue to be issued throughout the transition period.

Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, said: ‘At the end of this year we are leaving the single market and Customs Union regardless of the type of agreement we reach with the EU. This will bring changes and significant opportunities for which we all need to prepare.

‘While we have already made great progress in getting ready for this moment, there are actions that businesses and citizens must take now to ensure we are ready to hit the ground running as a fully independent United Kingdom.’

However, an IoD survey of nearly 1,000 company directors polled in late June found only a quarter (24%) described themselves as ‘fully prepared’, while 19% said they had starting preparing but had more to do.

A larger proportion indicated greater difficulties. Nearly half said they were not able to prepare right now, with one in seven distracted by coronavirus and almost a third saying they needed the details of any changes to be clear before adjusting.

Those in the financial sector were most likely to be ready while manufacturers in particular had more to do. Directors in services felt especially unable to prepare at present, whether due to pressures of the pandemic or because they needed more clarity on changes.

The majority (69%) said that reaching a deal was important for their organisation, with 89% saying it was important for the economy as a whole as it recovers. Even among the portion of directors who favoured being able to diverge from EU rules, most (71%) said that getting a deal was important to the economy.

Jonathan Geldart, IoD director general, said: ‘With so much going on, many directors feel that preparing for Brexit proper is like trying to hit a moving target. Jumping immediately into whatever comes next would be a nightmare for many businesses.

‘A commitment to some form of reciprocal phasing-in of changes once clear is a long-standing ask from our members, and the benefits would be significant.

‘At a time when government is rightly straining every sinew to help firms deal with widespread disruption, it would be counterproductive not to seek to minimise it at the end of the year.

‘Unilateral actions like staggering import controls would be a welcome step from government, but are by no means enough, we need to mitigate disruption across many different sectors on both sides.’

The IoD called on the UK and EU to commit to a reciprocal, phased implementation wherever possible, and for the UK government to provide greater clarity on its contingency plans in the event of a no deal.

To minimise disruption in the context of coronavirus, the IoD also reiterated its call for financial support for small firms to access specialist help and advice on a range of Brexit impact areas, for instance in the form of tax credits or ‘Brexit vouchers’ to follow in the footsteps of other EU countries.

Government information about the key actions that businesses and individuals need to take before the end of the transition period can be found on gov.uk/transition.

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