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Brexit: remember that? The B-word might not have been at the forefront of our minds this year (albeit for a brief period in January, as the country geared up to begin 2020’s transition period). But it is still happening at the end of this year, coronavirus or no coronavirus. If you’re a business owner it’s very likely that your mind is now returning to it post-lockdown. So, how can you begin to prepare your business for our imminent exit from the European Union?
Frustratingly, there still aren’t firm rules or guidance in place for what businesses need to do to prepare for Brexit. However, whilst the government continues to work on the finer details of trade and tariffs (and numerous other things that will need to be organised before the year is out), there are still a few things that business owners can be getting on with. Here, we’ll outline some of the most important.
Even if you don’t deal in imports or move goods overseas as part of your business, your international and EU clients might still be worried about doing business with you once Britain has left the EU. Their confidence might be lessened further if we end up crashing out without a deal.
You need to provide your clients with confidence, so make sure you’re as open with them as possible. Communicate any changes you’ll need to make to the way that you work as soon as you know what they are. Stay in contact as much as possible for the rest of the transition period, and afterwards.
Whilst encouraging clients’ confidence, you still need to protect yourself whilst you’re preparing your business for Brexit. It might be a good idea to alter your contracts to reflect that you will no longer be operating within an EU framework, in order to ensure that clients don’t drop you without warning. Get written agreements on all work that you plan to undertake in 2021, in order to secure your business as much as possible.
The way that you use and store data is likely to change once the transition period is over. Make sure you’re aware of what these changes are likely to be, to avoid getting caught out by huge fines or other sanctions.
The UK will absorb the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR), which was introduced in 2018, so this is one thing that you can be safe in the knowledge will stay the same.
There is more information on how data protection will change after the transition period on the Information Commissioner’s Office website.
If you travel internationally for work, you’ll need to keep a close eye on potential visa changes as you prepare your business for Brexit. This also applies if you have staff based within the EU, including those working remotely. Their working rights may change after Brexit, as might their right to work for your company.
There are other regulations that you’ll need to consider when it comes to your staff in the EU, too. They include:
Gov.uk has a page that offers more information on these considerations.
Gov.uk outlines the new passport rules for travelling in the EU after Brexit, including that you will need six months remaining to avoid being refused entry. Your passport must also be less than 10 years old, even if it has more than six months remaining. Of course, you will need to make sure any of your staff who are travelling abroad are aware of these changes too.
If you’re selling goods within the EU, you should be aware that import charges might require you to charge more after the transition period has ended. As this article points out, “customs duties might apply, making EU trade more expensive for UK retailers… (they) could now struggle to remain competitive as EU consumers are attracted to more affordable offerings from other Member States (where no additional charges apply).”
One thing that you can (and should!) do right now is fill in this government form, which will give you a better understanding of the process of importing into the EU after Brexit. Following this process will guide you on the new rules for various types of goods, let you see the amount of tax you’ll need to pay, and help you to set up the Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number. This is the number that you’ll need to move goods in or out of the EU.
If your business owns property in the EU, you’ll need to check what (if any) changes are going to come with Britain’s exit. There isn’t currently a lot of readily available information on UK businesses with properties in the EU after Brexit. Sadly, that means we’re not able to offer a huge amount of practical advice here. We recommend that you keep an eye on the government’s pages as they are updated over the coming months, and take any required actions promptly as soon as they’re announced.
If you’re an EU-based business that operates or has staff in the UK, you should read this detailed guide from the government, which explains what you’ll need to do to prepare your business for Brexit.
Have you started preparing your business for Brexit? Let us know how you’re finding the transition period over on the forums.
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Hang on on there, everyone. Things will get worse before they get better!