The other day, I was talking to a Dungannon business owner who said he was indecisive about buying a new van to join his existing fleet until he knew the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. This procrastinating about strategic decisions is very common among many Dungannon businesses and who could blame them. Being asked to prepare for Brexit is a bit like being asked to prepare for a holiday, but not knowing if it’s a beach holiday or a skiing break. Even at this late hour, there are some things businesses can do to prepare for the unknown and here are some tips gleaned from various sources.
Apply for an international driving permit. This is fairly crucial if you want to be able to drive legally in the Republic or any other EU country. One of the main benefits of EU membership we take for granted is the Europe-wide recognition of national driving licences. This will end if we “crash out” of the club. An international driving permit will allow you to drive legally throughout the EU; you’ll need to apply for it personally at a post office, for a fee of £5.50.
Make sure your health insurance covers trips to the EU. The European Health Card, which covers EU citizens, could disappear. The safest solution might be to apply for some health insurance that will cover you, in the EU, for holidays and business trips.
Buy your foreign currency now. While I can’t predict the future any better than anyone else, it seems reasonable to conclude that a hard Brexit, the nearer it gets, could well bring about a depreciation of sterling in the same way it depreciated the morning after the 2016 referendum. Then again, whenever there is a wave of optimism about the talks, sterling tends to rise.
Watch your phone bill. In recent years, mobile phone roaming rates were cut among EU states. It is not yet clear whether that regulation will survive the Brexit process, although it may be caught by the UK withdrawal legislation.
Manage your supply chain. Look at which products you could source from within the UK, thereby minimising any disruption going forward. Sourcing within the UK will help protect your bottom line, as payments and invoices would be paid in one currency, reducing the risk of uncertainty. If sourcing locally is not an option, focus on strengthening your relationships with existing suppliers to help you negotiate strong trading terms in the future.
Businesses should now consider the impacts on them in a ‘no deal’ scenario. This would mean having to apply the same customs and excise rules to goods traded with the EU that apply for goods traded outside of the EU. This would also mean submitting customs declarations. Businesses should give some thought to whether they should source software or engage a customs broker or freight forwarder to support them with these new requirements.
A quick surf on the Internet can you can find plenty of tips on how to prepare for Brexit, but as we all know, the future is still ambiguous - easier to decide whether to dress for the sun of the snow.