Region's firms aren't all Brexit-ready, surveys suggest

Businesses need to prepare for the end of the transition period says the LEP

Suffolk and Norfolk businesses are getting ready for January 1 Picture: SPECTRA PACKAGING - Credit: Spectra Packaging

Small and large companies across Suffolk and Norfolk are being urged to prepare themselves for big changes on January 1 - even those who don't trade overseas.

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) says even  firms who think they are not affected by Brexit because they don't export or import goods might find they are after all.

As well as those who sell into the European Union (EU), businesses which employ overseas nationals will need to prepare for a new immigration system, and people travelling to the EU for work will need to check whether they need a visa or work permit. UK firms receiving personal data via the European Economic Area will need to make sure data is flowing legally. Anyone providing services in the EU will also need to make sure their qualifications are recognised by the EU.

C-J Green, chairwoman of New Anglia LEP board Picture: BRAVEGOOSE

New Anglia LEP chairwoman C-J Green says even firms who don't import or export will be affected by Brexit - Credit: Bravegoose

LEP chairwoman C-J Green said it was "an incredibly challenging time" for businesses as they respond to the coronavirus pandemic, but it was important for them to take time to prepare for January 1 and take action if necessary.

"It’s not just large firms, or those which export or import, which will be affected. Anyone who moves goods through the EU, relies on materials coming from the EU as part of their supply chain, works with customers overseas or travels for work will be affected," she said.

Help is available from New Anglia Growth Hub business advisers, she said, and a variety of checklists and training tools can be found on the LEP website

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“I would recommend all business owners take a little time to look through the guidance and get ready now," she said.

A poll by MHA Larking Gowen of around 50 import and export businesses in  the region found just 8% were fully prepared and 37% were more than half prepared.

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According to Trade Business Advisers (TBA) , more than 55% of companies in Suffolk already import and export to and from the EU and global markets. More than 80% of these are micro or small businesses employing up to 50 people.

However, a survey conducted by TBA at the end of October found 53% had prepared as much as they can for the end of transition but 19% admitted they weren't ready at all.

International trade is key to the Norfolk and Suffolk economy, with £2.89bn worth of goods and services exported in 2015,  56% of which was with the EU. Seven of the counties' 10 top export markets by value are members of the EU, with the Netherlands listed as their largest market with exports totalling £392m in 2015. Manufacturing and agriculture are the major export sectors.

A webinar entitled Navigating Customs formalities and ensuring HMRC compliance takes place on Wednesday 16 December. To register, click here

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