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How should my small business be preparing for Brexit?

Whilst there remains political deadlock over Brexit and the UK is currently on course to leave the EU without a deal, there are a number of resources available to help your business prepare – even whilst the outcome remains unclear.

What is the current situation with Brexit?

The UK was scheduled to leave the European Union (EU) on 29 March 2019. However, failure to pass Theresa May’s withdrawal deal through Parliament has led to the EU granting an extension:

  • A six-month extension was agreed on 11 April 2019 with a new deadline of 31 October 2019 being set. 
  • Prime Minister Theresa May has expressed a wish to leave before this deadline provided Parliament ratifies her agreement.

According to the government:

“Leaving the EU means your business may need to prepare for change.

“Delivering a deal negotiated with the EU remains the government’s top priority. With an implementation period until December 2020, this would give businesses stability, certainty and time to prepare for our new relationship after EU Exit.

“However, the government must plan for every possible outcome, including no deal. Without a deal, businesses may need to take action before the deadline.”

So, what should you do?

Government Brexit advice for small businesses

The government has published advice aimed at businesses on how to prepare for the UK leaving the EU. Businesses can visit government portal GOV.UK and answer ‘7 simple questions‘ to read guidance most relevant to their sector and circumstances. 

There is advice on the various ways UK businesses will be affected by the UK leaving the EU, including:

GOV.UK also features specific guidance on preparing for Brexit for sectors such as:

FSB Brexit advice for small businesses

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has also published online Brexit guidance that it claims can “help you make the right plans for your business”. The guide explains what the FSB believes will happen in the event of a “no deal scenario” and includes a business continuity/contingency planning chapter, which “sets out what a good contingency plan should cover”.

Crucially, the FSB guidance also answers the key question – What should small businesses be thinking about in the eventuality of a no deal? – covering financial issues, legal issues, trade in goods, trade in services, employing people and EU funding.

The FSB says it “wants to see a good pro-business deal reached with the EU” because this is “in the best interests of smaller businesses in the UK and the EU”. It describes a no deal/no transition period outcome as the “most disruptive scenario for business continuity in the short term”.

British Chambers of Commerce Brexit advice

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) describes the UK leaving the EU as “one of the biggest economic changes in a generation” and is “focused on the practicalities of Brexit for business communities across the UK”. The BCC believes that it is “crucial that businesses are doing all they can to prepare for the future”, so it has “compiled resources to help firms plan for change” and has created a Brexit Hub

It has also produced a handy 10-page Business Brexit Checklist (PDF), covering such key considerations as workforce, cross-border trade, taxation, currency, IP, contracts, regulatory compliance and data protection. Brexit Agreement FAQs (PDF) are answered, while the BCC has published a list of “20 critical questions that remain unanswered” for business in the “unwelcome event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal”. 

IoD and other sources of Brexit advice

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has also created a Navigating Brexit hub, with members able to download a factsheet on Business Planning for Brexit. The IoD has also published Guidance on the Government’s Brexit ‘no deal’ technical notices, conveniently summarising key points. The hub brings together the latest Brexit news, videos of need-to-know Brexit facts for businesses and webinars.

The Forum of Private Business provides its members with a free helpline, through which it will help with Brexit queries. Your bank or trade association (find yours via the Trade Association Forum website) may also have published advice on how to prepare for Brexit. Local councils and business support organisations have also been providing advice to small businesses on preparing Brexit. All organisations are urging small businesses to act now to mitigate risk and try to minimise disruption, whichever way the UK ends up leaving the EU.

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