Comprehensive research has revealed a substantial number of North East manufacturers are not prepared for Brexit.
In order to protect the region’s international trade North East England Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Square One Law has produced a detailed Brexit Ready Tool Kit to support them. The information is a clear, step by step guide detailing what companies need to do in order to protect their business once the UK leaves the EU.
Neil Warwick, Head of EU and Competition Law, commercial law firm, Square One Law said: " We know that Brexit is very fluid at the minute with the EU Withdrawal Bill coming back to the Commons this week and the crucial EU Council in a month's time and it is understandable that businesses are uncertain about what to do. However time is potentially running out and we would advise that it is essential that businesses have a contingency plan, even if they are not yet ready or willing to implement it."
James Ramsbotham, chief executive, North East England Chamber of Commerce said: “What is very clear from our research is how far-reaching the impact of Brexit will be in our region. It will have impact on everyone from our international retailers who will have to cope with major currency uncertainties for imports and exports and even our football clubs who may be affected by the Bosman law where players can get a free transfer towards the end of their contract. The likely new bureaucracy post Brexit will be a very difficult minefield for many businesses who have enjoyed frictionless trade with the EU. We hope this toolkit gives them the essential tips for successful exporting going forward.”
The Brexit Ready project covers four main areas of concern for businesses highlighted in the research - marketplaces, labour market, regulatory issues and access to finance. Access to markets is fundamental to businesses successfully trading overseas and potential tariffs present a huge potential burden in terms of time in particular. This is due to the complexity of identifying each component of machinery. A complex machine could have over 1,000 components with a range of tariffs on each one.
The recommendations for companies include identifying these tariffs and prepare for VAT changes.
The labour market post Brexit is set to be constricted with a potential skills gap as 47% of EU works occupy mid-skilled jobs. There are also around 100,000 EU students at UK universities which could drain talent pools and weaken regional graduate retention.
The Brexit Ready project for this skills issues suggests companies preparing an audit of their workforce and the skills needed for the next 5 – 10 years, as well as identifying the skills of the current team. Companies can also support migrant workers to obtain a settled status application.
In terms of regulatory issues the recommendations are to assess supply agreements in case they need to change the governing law clauses and identify goods or services which are subject to an EU mark.
Access to finance will change significantly post Brexit as there will be not be the EU programme funding such as JEREMIE which has supported so many North East companies. The Brexit toolkit outlines the need for companies to pay off any viable outstanding debit, review any development and expansion plans for the next five years.
Chamber members have supported the research exercise and recommendations which also found due to Brexit some North East companies are also looking at relocating to Europe.
Mike Matthews MBE, Managing Director Nifco and Chamber past President commented: “Businesses hopeful of trade agreements have, in the past, been accused of clutching at straws, but my answer to this, as I have said before is, through our preparations, we are using those straws to build a good and solid raft.”
More information, advice and reports can be found at https://www.neechamber.co.uk/preparing-for-brexit