This is not an article about the merits or otherwise of BREXIT. The professional forum is not a place for political arguments. These are much better had down the pub; assuming that you are in Tier 1 or Tier 2.
But having lectured on the tax and social security effects of BREXIT for the past four years, it is interesting to see the different approaches to managing change. There are companies and businesses as well as advisers who wanted to get ahead and understand the potential impacts. Those companies and individuals were ones that I lectured to in 2016 and 2017. They could see that this topic was important even if not necessarily urgent. In 2018, there was considerable doubt about whether the BREXIT process would actually continue or whether it would be blocked by Parliamentary action or a second referendum. By the end of 2019, it was clear that BREXIT would proceed and would involve substantial changes to our tax system.
When one gets to 2020 and still companies are unprepared, one does have to question their basic approach to planning.
When I started lecturing on this subject of course a considerable number of options were still available. Membership of the Single Market; membership of the Customs Union; membership of the European Free trade Area and membership of the European Economic Area. But as these options fell by the wayside, it would have been clear to most people, who took an interest, that the changes would be greater and potentially more disruptive for the “ostriches”.
All business needs to adapt to change and the Covid crisis has undoubtedly put the disruption of BREXIT into perspective. Successful businesses adapt by planning for different scenarios and we have known for four and half years that this point might arise. The task should have moved some time ago from the important but not urgent box to the urgent and important box.
As I stressed at all my seminars, the building blocks of any response by companies to changes is having information at their fingertips so that they can understand how different scenarios would affect them. In order to do this one needs to understand one’s supply chains, the potential customs duties certificates of origin VAT declarations EORI numbers that one needs. They should have applied for the Economic Operator number some time ago and looked at whether they needed to have a duty deferment account or indeed Authorised Economic Operator status.
In the coming weeks, Deal or no Deal, we will find out who has prepared and who is woefully unprepared. Having the information regarding supply chains and employees is key. Only if you have reliable information can you make good judgements. Even if there is a deal most of the paperwork requirements will be needed at the border. The main difference would be that customs duties would not be imposed if there is a Deal but the paperwork requirements would be almost identical.
Even a Deal would leave a whole raft of new procedures to be undertaken. This challenge will undoubtedly separate those who made good preparations and those who chose to ignore the subject until the very last minute.