With 24 days to go until the end of the Brexit transition period, businesses still have insufficient official information available in critical areas, undermining their ability to prepare for change on 1 January, according to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC)
Its Brexit guidance dashboard, which is used by both business and government to evaluate the quality of official UK government guidance, has 24 of 35 key questions most frequently raised by businesses flashing ‘amber’ or ‘red’. These apply in both ‘deal’ or ‘no deal’ scenarios.
Since the previous update to the dashboard in September, government guidance has only been upgraded to a ‘green’ rating in two areas: duty deferment accounts and the paperwork needed to import under a generalised system of preferences programme.
Under a third (11) areas are rated green, while 19 are amber and five are red.
The BCC says that among other issues, companies still 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.
In addition, there remains very limited guidance on procedures for the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The 10-digit tariff codes have still not been published and there is still doubt about the final World Trade Organisation (WTO) most favoured nation (MFN) tariff rates; and there is no information on how UK tariff rate quotas will be administered or how businesses can access them beyond the transition period.
Given this background, the BCC is calling on the government to offer UK easements to help business deal with the changes post Brexit.
These could include a temporary waiver of the £300 fine for hauliers arriving at Channel ports not border-ready due to genuine errors in the preparation of their documentation; flexibility in the requirements for EU companies to be registered in the UK for paperwork purposes; and a mandatory grace period for all companies who have inadvertently shared personal data unlawfully between the UK and the EU (whether with third parties or subsidiaries) without adequate legal authority, unless there has been a substantive breach of data subject rights.
Adam Marshall, BCC director general, said: ‘Posters and television adverts are no substitute for the clear, detailed and actionable information businesses require to prepare for the end of transition.
‘None of the issues businesses are grappling with are new. They have all been raised repeatedly over the past four years, from tariff codes and rules of origin through to the movement of goods from GB to NI.
‘The detail and precision of UK government guidance matters, and will make all the difference as the trading relationship between the UK and EU changes on January 1st.
‘We welcome the fact that UK and EU leaders are still talking, as the overwhelming majority of businesses want the two sides to reach an agreement.
‘If a breakthrough happens over the coming hours and days, the two sides must immediately set to work on pragmatic steps to smooth the introduction of the new arrangements from January, including easements for genuine administrative errors, clear procedures at ports, and fast help from customs authorities.’
Separate research with 500 SMEs across the UK carried out by e-money institution Amaiz found that changes to regulations topped the list of concerns about the impact of Brexit in the New Year, cited by 37.4% of respondents, along with increased costs of doing business (37.2%), and reduced access to suppliers (35.5%).\
Overall, 57% believe that Brexit will have some negative impact on their operations, while 6.6% believe it will destroy their business.
Smaller companies employing between 1 and 10 people are primarily concerned about increased costs (45.7%) and those with staff of between 11 and 50 about taxes and VAT (41.3%).