key update from John Bridge OBE DL

With negotiations between the UK and EU once again at a decision point – and with just 24 days to go until the end of the Brexit transition period – the latest analysis by the Chambers of Commerce shows that businesses still have insufficient official information available in 24 critical areas, undermining their ability to prepare for change on 1st January.

The Chamber’s Brexit Guidance Dashboard – long used by both business and government to evaluate the quality of official UK government guidance – still has 24 of 35 key questions flashing ‘Amber’ or ‘Red’.

The last evaluation of the quality of official HM Government guidance to assess whether it provides sufficient, clear and actionable information that businesses can use to prepare for the coming changes was in September and this assessment has now been updated.

The Chamber December dashboard finds:
  • 24 unanswered questions reflect fundamental aspects of business operations, including UK/EU customs checks and rules of origin
  • Government guidance has only been upgraded to a ‘Green’ RAG rating in two areas (duty deferment accounts and the paperwork needed to import under a Generalised System of Preferences programme) since its last update in September.
Please do not blame business for not preparing as there has been little movement on key unanswered questions.

The Chamber’s updated Brexit guidance dashboard compiles 35 questions most frequently raised by businesses, which apply in both ‘deal’ or ‘no deal’ scenarios. The Chamber has assessed the information available to firms and rated it Green (information is sufficient), Amber (some information is available) and Red (information is wholly inadequate).

The update gives just 11 areas a ‘Green’ status (up from 9 in September). 19 are Amber (no change from September) and five are Red (down from seven in September). Many of the unanswered questions reflect fundamental aspects of how companies operate.

With just the last 24 days to go, businesses need answers, and they need them now. Posters and television adverts are no substitute for the clear, detailed and actionable information businesses require to prepare for the end of transition.

None of the issues businesses are grappling with are new. They have all been raised repeatedly over the past four years, from tariff codes and rules of origin through to the movement of goods from GB to NI.

The detail and precision of UK government guidance matters, and will make all the difference as the trading relationship between the UK and EU changes on 1st January. With the clock ticking down, the government must do everything in its power to provide businesses with answers as they prepare to navigate a New Year like no other.

We welcome the fact that UK and EU leaders are still talking, as the overwhelming majority of businesses want the two sides to reach an agreement. If a breakthrough happens over the coming hours and days, the two sides must immediately set to work on pragmatic steps to smooth the introduction of the new arrangements from January, including easements for genuine administrative errors, clear procedures at ports, and fast help from customs authorities.

The lack of information with which to plan and potential deadline fatigue presents further challenges to firms up and down the UK, who have already faced reduced demand, ongoing government restrictions and sustained cashflow challenges due to the Coronavirus crisis.

Among other things:
  • Firms still do not know what rules of origin will apply after the transition period, preventing them and their customers from  planning and potentially creating unprecedented new administration and unwelcome additional costs
  • There remains very limited guidance on procedures for the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
  • 10-digit tariff codes have still not been published and there is still doubt about the final WTO MFN tariff rates
  • There is no information on how UK tariff rate quotas will be administered or how businesses can access them beyond the transition period.
Full details of the latest updated Chamber’s Brexit Guidance Dashboard can be found here

Let us trust common sense prevails on both sides in the negotiations and an agreement is reached without any further delay.

Contact the Chamber

01223 237414 •
Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce
Clifford House • 2 Station Yard • Oakington • CB24 3AH • United Kingdom