A top business group has stated that UK firms aren’t prepared for changes that Brexit will bring to UK and EU trading rules. The British Chambers of Commerce have conducted research which has produced concerning results, suggesting that businesses may not be ready to operate once we leave the customs union and EU single market.
The pandemic and uncertain government announcements seem to be the cause of this unpreparedness. However, the government claims that they will be improving their engagement with businesses over the next few weeks.
Earlier this year it was announced that these checks will be gradually brought in over six months, to allow businesses to adjust. Since then, £85m has been offered to firms to help them with customer declarations.
This includes £50m to hire a possible 50,000 custom agents and cover the cost of training them and building IT systems.
The Brexit transition phase is set to end on 31st December. This means that businesses will face changes when trading EU businesses. This includes filling out customer declarations for both exports and imports.
The British Chambers of Commerce has reported that less than 50% of UK business that trade internationally possessed an EORI number, taken from a survey of 480 members.
The EORI number is necessary to submit customs declarations, even though the government has automatically assigned these to traders.
The survey found that only 39% of business have looked to see if they need to fill in customs declarations. Only 21% claimed they had put staff training in place for the new changes. In every case, these numbers were smaller for businesses that trade in the UK.
Many Unanswered Questions
The Director of trade facilitation at the British Chamber of Commerce has said:
“One of the biggest problems is whether there will be capacity to meet the demand for new customs declarations, which are expected to rise from 55 million to 300 million in just 15 weeks from now.
Businesses must secure their new customs arrangements now to avoid damaging disruption in January 2021.”