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It's Brexit Day! But how can you meet the new challenges ahead?

PUBLISHED: 05:30 31 January 2020 | UPDATED: 08:42 31 January 2020

Suffolk Chamber has two Brexit advisors,  Koyas Miah and Mike Chapman Picture: ANDREW ST LEDGER/SCC

Suffolk Chamber has two Brexit advisors, Koyas Miah and Mike Chapman Picture: ANDREW ST LEDGER/SCC

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Tonight at 11pm might be the point in time when the UK leaves the EU, but in fact nothing will change at that precise moment - but businesses (and some individuals) need to use the next 11 months to prepare for life outside the Union.

Businesses need to be prepared for international trade post Brexit through Felixstowe Docks  Picture: CHARLOTTE BONDBusinesses need to be prepared for international trade post Brexit through Felixstowe Docks Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Tonight at 11pm might be the point in time when the UK leaves the EU, but in fact nothing will change at that precise moment - but businesses (and some individuals) need to use the next 11 months to prepare for life outside the Union.

That's the message from Suffolk Chamber Brexit advisor Mike Chapman, who is working with companies to prepare them to continue to do business with Europe after we leave. We have spoken to him about what to expect in the new world after Brexit.

What happens at 11pm tonight as the UK leaves the EU?

Although we are leaving the EU we immediately move into the implementation period so absolutely nothing happens to businesses (or individual British citizens who are in EU countries).

This implementation period lasts until December 31. During that time the UK remains a member of the Customs Union and Single Market. Businesses can trade with Europe as we have before. There will be no extra checks at frontiers and cross-border trade should continue to be seamless.

What is the significance of Brexit Day for European holidays?

As we are entering the implementation period there is no change for anyone going on holiday to an EU country during 2020. The European Health Insurance Card is still valid and British citizens are still regarded as EU citizens across the Union.

There is no need to get any visas to visit EU countries.

There is free movement across the Union - once you have entered the Schengen Area (the free movement area across Europe that Britain has never joined) you should have all the same rights as you have had since we joined what was then the EEC in 1973.

One possible (but unconfirmed change) is that it might be advisable to ensure that your passport is valid for at least six more months before you leave home as we approach the end of the implementation period.

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What happens next?

There are expected to be trade talks between the UK and the EU over the next 10 months to work out the terms of business between UK companies and those in the EU. This will also involve the imposition of tariffs on some products because the UK will no longer be in the Customs Union or Free Market after the end of 2020.

Although the implementation period lasts until the end of the year, all trade agreements will have to be completed by the end of November because they have to be ratified by parliaments of EU countries before they are become EU law.

What can business do to deal with Brexit issues?

Mr Chapman said businesses needed to use the next 11 months to prepare for what might happen. The trade negotiations may be long and tortuous - both sides may take extreme positions at the start which are eased as we approach the end of November deadline. But firms should be aware that there would be changes and work out if they needed to adapt. Businesses that rely on "just in time" deliveries from EU suppliers or send items to EU customers on that basis might need to think about introducing a 48-hour window to take account of the possibilities of a delay at the port or airport.

Are there any positives to Brexit for business?

The government might be able to negotiate better trade deals with non-EU countries which will make it easier for businesses to do deals in countries outside the Union.

And while there may be some serious hot-air let off during the trade negotiations in the middle of the year, the likelihood is that there will be workable deals agreed.

The fact is that after the UK leaves the EU the bloc will continue to be Britain's largest trading partner. And for many EU countries, the UK will continue to be their largest trading partner. It is in their interests to get a good deal as well as ours. BMW are as keen to sell their cars in the UK as Nissan is to sell theirs in Germany.

When will things really start to change?

From the start of 2021 the UK will no longer be in the Customs Union or Single Market. From then there are likely to be some tariffs and there will be additional customs checks at frontiers - or wherever they are agreed to take place. This is the date by which businessed needs to be ensure they are ready for the major change.

Also, from the start of 2021 there could be different arrangements for UK citizens visiting other EU countries. There will not be an automatic right to live and work elsewhere in the EU and the government here is stopping free movement into the UK.

It is thought unlikely that any EU countries will introduce tourist visas for UK visitors - but that is in theory possible - and from 2021 there are likely to be different health care arrangements for British visitors to other countries. But that should all become clear later in the year.

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