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The countdown to Brexit

| Duncan & Toplis | 15 December 2020

With less than a month to go until the end of the Brexit transition period, it’s an important time to take stock and assess how Brexit might impact your business.

The end of the transition period will mark the end to Britain’s trading agreements with 70 other countries or territories with which the EU has trade agreements.

So far, the government has signed 11 agreements  - or agreements in principle - to replace these. The most recent of these was a continuity agreement with Canada, meaning British and Canadian businesses can continue to trade without import or export tariffs when the EU transition agreement ends on 1 January 2021.

Britain’s trade with Canada is currently worth £22.4bn per year, so it’s a significant agreement to have secured. Other large countries which now have post-Brexit trade agreements in place include Japan, Israel, South Korea and Switzerland, while 14 other agreements are being negotiated.

Mutual recognition agreements have been reached with Australia, New Zealand and the USA. These agreements signify that the signatories recognise the processes by which each country confirms whether products meet their specified legal requirements.

With a no-deal situation still the default position if the UK and the EU cannot come to an agreement, the UK government has recently written to business leaders urging them to make necessary preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

In the letter, Business Secretary Alok Sharma urges businesses to act now to avoid business operations being interrupted when the transition period ends.

There is still time to make preparations and the advice includes checking the new rules on importing and exporting goods to ensure you comply with new customs procedures, registering as a licensed visa sponsor if you plan to recruit from overseas, checking whether new markings or approvals are needed on manufactured goods, and checking the latest guidance on moving goods in or out of Northern Ireland. 

The Minister has acknowledged that these are “challenging times" but stresses that the transition will end on 31 December and there will be no extension. So doing your research sooner rather than later to see how any changes might impact your business or employees is the best approach now that we know for certain that the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t changed the government’s plans for the transition ending. 

For agricultural businesses, Environment Secretary George Eustice has set out a seven year roadmap for farming post-Brexit. Key changes include phasing out of the EU’s Basic Payment Scheme, which rewards farms based on the land they own. This will be halved by 2024 and abolished entirely by 2028.

Replacing this will be a new Environmental Land Management system which aims to incentivise sustainable farming practices and nature recovery, including the creation of new woodland. There will also be grants to improve productivity and animal welfare, as well as the use of new robotic equipment.

While the future trading relationship with the EU may still be unknown, what we do know is that the transition period is quickly drawing in. Thankfully, there are many ways businesses can prepare for this, no matter what sector they’re in. 

For professional advice and to access a range of expert support services in the run up to Brexit and beyond, please contact our team.

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