Too many Suffolk businesses remain unprepared for Brexit

Rob Thomson, director at Grant Thornton�s Ipswich office. Picture: Grant Thornton

Rob Thomson, director at Grant Thornton�s Ipswich office. Picture: Grant Thornton - Credit: Archant

With new research showing the majority of businesses have done no planning, or don’t believe they need to make plans, ahead of the March 2019 deadline for Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU), financial and business advisers Grant Thornton warns Suffolk companies should not be complacent and carefully consider how their operations will be affected.

Grant Thornton’s survey of UK businesses, including a proportion across the region, found that 22% have not begun to form any kind of Brexit strategy, whilst a further 42% believe it is not even necessary. Just 10% of firms are currently developing or implementing a contingency plan.

Grant Thornton’s Ipswich office director Rob Thomson said: “Two years on from Britain’s historic vote to leave the EU, and businesses both locally and nationally seem largely unperturbed about the transformative impact Britain’s EU departure will have.

“Whilst unknowns and uncertainty at policy level remain a hindrance to planning, local businesses cannot afford to sit back and do nothing. There are a number of actions they can and should consider now to stand them in good stead post-Brexit.

“These include forecasting for the various scenarios which could play out and identifying mitigating actions. Also ensuring businesses have the right, skilled people in place to take their operations forward during the transition period and beyond, and where applicable, the capabilities to manage exports and customs functions.”

Businesses were also asked about their confidence in the UK and EU agreeing an outcome that is ultimately positive for their organisation. Over a quarter (28%) expressed a degree of confidence in a positive outcome but more businesses (31%) remained unsure.

Of those businesses who have carried out some form of planning, the majority (58%) have factored in the reality of a ‘No Deal’ scenario, where the UK and EU fail to reach an agreement and the UK defaults to trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.

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Rob Thomson concluded: “Irrespective of how the negotiation process develops over the coming months, the EU economies will remain important trading partners for many local firms for the foreseeable future. With many Suffolk businesses looking at increased international trade to aid their growth strategies, it is vital they take a long hard look at both their current operations and future plans to identify where they’re potentially exposed come March 2019.

He added that as with any transformative shift to the economy, Brexit offers both opportunities and risks for business. “From our experience of working with local organisations to plan for Brexit, we know that taking a pragmatic approach can help identify areas of risk exposure and narrow uncertainty, allowing companies to focus on what really matters. Cliché as it sounds, the old adage ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ certainly rings true at the moment.”