This year hasn’t been what anybody expected, but one thing has stayed constant throughout: the UK, which has left the EU, will come out of the transition period at midnight on December 31.
The year 2021 will therefore be a new start – and there are things that businesses need to do now, regardless of the outcomes of negotiations between Whitehall and Brussels, to make sure they aren’t left behind when new rules come into place.
Because Britain will be leaving the single market and customs union, certain changes are baked in regardless of negotiations.
● If you sell goods to the EU you must prepare for new customs procedures.
● If you travel to the EU for work purposes you will need to check if you need a visa or work permit and apply if necessary.
● If you employ overseas nationals you will need to prepare your business for the implementation of the new immigration system.
● If you are a UK business or organisation that receives personal data from contacts in the EEA, you may need to take extra steps to ensure that the data can continue to flow legally at the end of the transition period.
● If you provide services in the EU, you must ensure that your qualifications are now recognised by EU regulations to be able to practice or service clients in the EU.
Nothing to fear
John Mestitz is the third-generation boss at Watford electrical engineering firm, Techna.
The business was established by his grandfather in 1945, at the time of another transformational moment for the country.
The firm makes predominantly electrical switchgear components but has expertise in everything from transportation electrical engineering to motion control. Despite the difficult circumstances thrown up by 2020, the firm finished its financial year in September with 3 per cent growth. Techna exports to the EU, Asia and North America.
On Brexit transition: “We started looking over a year ago. We considered a range of outcomes, because if you plan for that, then you’re prepared for anything.
“We didn’t find it very difficult to prepare for. All the information is there on the Government website (gov.uk/transition). It took three people a week or so to do the preparation: the biggest thing for us was just making sure we had all the right tariff codes on our thousands of products.
“Right now we’re about 85 per cent ready. There’s a few things we need to do like duty deferments but in a couple of weeks we’ll be ready to go.
“I’ve heard a lot of businesses say it’s going to be difficult, and it is if you just sit down and think about it. But if you just get on and do it, it’s quite easy. You have to assign a few days to do the work but once you sit down and do it, the information is all there on the Government website (gov.uk/transition) and you just get it done.”
“There’s nothing to fear, really.”
“Not complicated or difficult”
Farah Radford runs Cattitude Box – a subscription service for cat lovers, and their lucky four-legged friends. Each month, a carefully curated box arrives on doorsteps around the country – and in Europe – packed full of premium treats and handmade toys.
Farah sends dozens of her popular boxes to Europe every month, so as time ticked down this year she started investigating what she’d need to do to ensure her continental cats still got their treats on time.
“I went through the questionnaire on gov.uk/transition and followed all the links that apply to my situation,” she says. “I’ve printed the relevant pages out and am studying a few every day, taking the time to understand them.
“I’m getting there – yes, it’s administration and it’s boring but it’s not complicated or difficult.”
The main change to how Farah operates is declarations, so she’s been researching what the forms involve on the gov.uk and Royal Mail websites.
“It’s fairly straightforward – you have to fill in what the contents of the boxes are, their value and the country of origin of each item,” she tells us.
“Then I need a custom code for every individual item. I spoke to the Royal Mail about it and they directed me to the Government website where I can find that custom code by searching for each individual item – a candle, for example – from a drop-down menu,” she continues.
I’m a goods exporter like John and Farah – what do I need to do?
Consumer goods companies can take three easy steps to make sure they’re ready to go after the transition period comes to an end.
- Check if Import VAT is due at the border. Your business could face delays, disruption or administrative costs if you do not comply with new customs procedures from 1 January 2021.
- Use GOV.UK to identify changes affecting manufactured goods, such as new marking requirements or approvals needed, to ensure your business is ready to sell them in the UK and EU.
- Get ready to make customs declarations Import and export declarations are complicated, requiring specialist skill, knowledge and IT. If you are not able to make declarations or provide the wrong information, your business could face delays, disruption or administrative costs.
Time is running out
The transition period will end on December 31 and Britain will embark on a new start. Make sure you’re ready, using the Government’s transition website: gov.uk/transition.