Just over a third of UK companies have completed a Brexit risk assessment this year, as businesses scramble to prepare for the end of the transition period in 98 days.
Only 38 per cent of eligible firms have completed Brexit risk assessments this year, compared to 57 per cent of businesses in 2019, according to a report released today by the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC).
The business lobby group said British businesses have “significant unanswered questions” about the end of the transition period, with around half of UK firms having done nothing to prepare for Brexit.
Just over 50 per cent of firms surveyed by the BCC have taken steps recommended by the government to prepare for wide-scale changes when the UK formally leaves the bloc at the end of the year.
In a stiff warning to British businesses already reeling from the effects of the pandemic, the BCC said lack of preparation may significantly affect customs declarations and could lead to serious disruptions for UK customers and suppliers.
“With just 98 days to go, business communities face the triple threat of a resurgent coronavirus, receding government support schemes, and a disorderly end to the transition period,” said BCC director general Adam Marshall.
“The government must ramp up engagement with business urgently… to ensure that the real-world issues facing firms get tackled immediately.”
The government earlier this year launched its £93m Check Change Go advertising blitz to prepare businesses and tourists for the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.
However, the BCC today slammed the campaign for failing to sufficiently inform businesses of necessary preparations before the UK leaves the EU in January.
“The Check, Change, Go campaign gives the impression that Brexit-related changes are like getting an MOT — whereas the reality is that for many businesses, they’re more akin to planning a moon landing.
“Businesses need honest communication about the complexity of the changes they face – and stronger encouragement to act.”
It comes after Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove yesterday acknowledged that the UK may see border queues of up to 7,000 lorries in a “reasonable worst-case scenario” after the transition period deadline.
Gove faced accusations of creating a de facto Brexit border for lorry drivers entering Kent, after leaked documents showed they would need a “Kent access permit” to get into the country from the EU from 1 January.
Labour’s shadow business secretary Ed Miliband today backed calls for more support for businesses ahead of the Brexit deadline.
“The government promised an oven-ready deal, but their incompetence is plain to see,” he told PA.
“They must stop prevaricating, focus on getting the deal they promised and giving businesses the answers they need, and ensure all preparations are in place for the end of the transition period.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman rebuffed claims the government has failed to prepare businesses for Brexit, saying it will be “intensifying our engagement” with business groups in the coming weeks “so they can hit the ground running on 1 January 2021 and seize new opportunities”.