Doncaster Chamber says companies need to be ready in order to avoid delays and extra costs
As the government tells businesses this week to make sure they are ready for big changes when the UK makes its final Brexit break from the European Union in one month, the team at Doncaster Chamber of Commerce are asking businesses across South Yorkshire – are you ready?
But with the negotiations on a free-trade deal with the bloc stuck, many firms across the country say they still don't know key details of what those changes will be.
The UK left the EU early this year but remained part of the 27-nation bloc´s economic embrace during an 11-month transition as the two sides tried to negotiate a new free-trade deal to take effect January 1st.
Talks have already slipped past the mid-November date long set as a deadline for agreement to be reached if it is to be approved by lawmakers in Britain and the EU before the end of the year.
Teams led by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and British counterpart David Frost met through the weekend in London with no breakthrough. Talks are continuing, and UK officials have said this is the last week to strike a deal.
The two sides remain stuck over key issues including the resolution of future disputes and "level playing field" provisions - the standards the UK must meet to export into the EU.
The biggest hurdle appears to be fish, a small part of the economy with an outsized symbolic importance for Europe´s maritime nations. EU countries want their boats to be able to keep fishing in British waters, while the UK insists it must control access and quotas.
“If there is no deal, New Year´s Day will bring huge disruption, with the overnight imposition of tariffs and other barriers to UK-EU trade. That will hurt both sides, but the burden will fall most heavily on Britain, which does almost half its trade with the EU,” said Adrian Platts, International Trade and Business Support Manager at Doncaster Chamber.
The British government has launched a major information campaign, with billboards and advertisements warning that "time is running out" and telling businesses to get ready for change on 1st of January.
But firms that trade with the EU say they still don´t know what conditions they will face in a month’s time.
"There’s an awful lot businesses that don’t feel ready because they struggle to navigate and find clarity in the raft of Brexit information on the government website," continued Mr Platts.
“Things will be smoother with a deal, which would remove quotas and tariffs on goods, though businesses still face new obstacles and red tape, including customs declarations and border checks”.
“I would advise anyone needing support and guidance to get in touch with the Chamber team. While Doncaster Chamber still has capacity to help companies who are importing or exporting to the EU after Brexit, firms must act quickly to avoid a situation where brokers or agents do not have the resources to onboard businesses.”