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Is it possible to be ready for Brexit?

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared that the UK will leave the EU on the 31st October “no ifs no buts”, deal – or no-deal.

Businesses are being advised left right and centre by Ministers, civil servants, private sector advisors and even ourselves at the Chamber of Commerce to prepare for Brexit. But are businesses preparing? And what does “being prepared” really mean?

Are businesses preparing for Brexit?

Yes and no.

In May 2019 we teamed up with the West Midlands Combined Authority to launch a free online Brexit planning tool for businesses – The Business Brexit Health Check (more on that later).

Analysis of responses to the Health Check between the 28th May and 31st July 2019 revealed that businesses selected an average of 8 areas where they could be impacted by Brexit. However, only 52% reported having discussed the potential implications of Brexit at Board and Senior Management level and only 38% report having undertaken a thorough Brexit risk assessment on their operations.

Even fewer were moving beyond reviewing risks to taking direct actions: 21% had invested in training staff in relation to Brexit, 21% had adapted their import or export strategies and 19% had undertaken proactive communication with key groups (EU employees, investors, suppliers, customers).

That being said, when we break the results down by sector, we can see that manufacturers are being much more proactive in their preparations than services sector firms. For instance; 72% of manufacturers had undertaken a review of their major suppliers and customers in relation to Brexit and 26% had increased the amount of stock they are holding.

And it’s easy to see why: on average, manufacturing sector firms were exposed to Brexit related change in more than twice as many areas as services sector firms.

What we are seeing is some firms being very proactive in their preparations and others, well, essentially ignoring it for one of the following reasons:

  • “Brexit won’t affect us”: actually 98% of businesses completing a Business Brexit Health Check select at least one area of their operations that could be impacted by Brexit – and plenty are surprised by their results.
  • “I’m sure someone else in the business is looking in to it”: are they? If you’re a decision maker in your business you may want to double check and confirm that, and make sure that if they are, they’re properly supported by your organisation’s leadership.
  • “It’s confusing and will take too long to look in to”: It’s true – some of the terms being banded around in relation to Brexit can initially sound a bit impenetrable (EORI Number, non-tariff barriers, EU Settlement Scheme etc). But help is at hand: the GBCC has teamed up with the West Midlands Combined Authority on a range of resources and support to help make it as quick and easy as possible.
  • “If we don’t know what we’re preparing for, how can we prepare?”: Actually, this may have been true a year ago but now we know a lot about what a no-deal Brexit would look like and what impact ongoing uncertainty (in the event of a further extension to negotiations) would have.

How can businesses prepare for Brexit?

Every business can review their operations, spot where they’re exposed to risks and take steps to reduce their exposure to these risks.

What this looks like will be slightly different for every organisation which is why we created The Business Brexit Health Check. Complete a short set of simple questions about your operations and you’ll receive a personalised report highlighting the key areas that may be exposed to Brexit related change and tips on how to prepare. The Business Brexit Health Check is:

  • Quick – it takes less than five minutes for you to complete
  • Bespoke - only highlights information relevant to your business
  • Designed by industry experts

Take your Business Brexit Health Check here: www.wmca.org.uk/BrexitHealthCheck

We have also created Brexit Q&As on commonly asked questions a #90SecondBrexit video series. Each week, a guest expert explains a different Brexit related term and what it means for businesses in 90 seconds or less.

Finally, we are delivering a wide range of face to face activity with businesses. Our Brexit Clinic events are free for members and non-members to attend and get the latest advice on Brexit preparations. We also have a whole range of international trade related training courses on everything from Authorised Economic Operator Status to Export Documentation. Click here for more information.

Are we definitely going to see a no deal Brexit?

If there’s one thing that the last three years have taught us, it’s that nothing it certain when it comes to Brexit, whatever the Prime Minister might say.

There are plenty of groups within Parliament looking for a way to block a no-deal Brexit out of concern for the impact it would have on our economy (after all, the Government’s own analysis shows it would have a negative impact, and the West Midlands would be one of the worst affected regions). In fact, the only thing that the majority of MPs could agree on when it came to Brexit during a series of votes back in March was that they do not want to see a no deal Brexit.

But – and this is the crucial point – a no-deal Brexit on the 31st October is the default legal option. Unless the UK and EU come together and agree an alternative that is precisely what will happen.

If your competitors are making sure their businesses are in the best possible shape to tackle Brexit, can you afford not to?