The Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s International Trade Hub held its latest Brexit event at the Holiday Inn, Kenilworth, which looked into international trade and customs after the UK leaves the EU.
The event heard from David Bharier, Research Manager at the British Chambers of Commerce, and David Hooper, of Hooper & Co, who is an expert in overseas trade particularly around customs clearances.
After presenting to around 50 businesses, they were joined in a question and answer session by Paul Wrighting, Documentation & Trade Training Manager at the British Chambers of Commerce.
The event heard that a so-called hard Brexit would mean an extra 200 million customs declarations a year would need to be made and that HMRC could need thousands of extra staff to process them.
Questions were also raised about the IT systems’ ability to cope with the extra demand that would be put up on them.
David Hooper talked through what the various Brexit ‘plans’ would mean for businesses but said that companies who do export could all start one process now that would help them whatever the outcome of negotiations.
He said: “None of us know what the final outcome is going to be so we can’t tell businesses yet exactly what they need to do.
“So we are trying to give businesses all of the information we have and letting them know how it might affect them but there are one or two things they can do now to prepare.
“Businesses should be carrying out an audit on existing customs procedures and should be checking whether their goods could be classed as UK origin to ensure they benefit from any future trade agreements,. If they can’t, companies should review their supply chain.
“Companies should look at the issue around import VAT and how this might affect their cashflow albeit the Government has suggested that a new accounting procedure will be introduced.
“Businesses should also look to start the process of becoming an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) because this will be relevant whatever the outcome.
“It can take between nine and 12 months to secure the status but it means that you are seen as a secure and safe business partner, you will have fewer delays on your shipments and the HMRC will, to assume you are compliant on all customs and security issues.
“It won’t solve everything – especially if there is a queue of lorries backed up on the motorway which is something beyond everyone’s control – but it’s a good thing to have, whatever Brexit we get.”
James Ahearne, International Trade Commercial Executive at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “We have, since the referendum, tried to give members as much information as possible away from all of the political noise.
“This was another very well-attended event and gave firms much-needed and useful information.
“As the Brexit deadline approaches it is essential that all businesses do as much as they can to keep up to date with the latest information and are aware of the changes that are coming our way as the UK exits the European Union.”