Are your clients ready for Brexit?

Are your clients ready for Brexit?

Paul Hodges is chairman of ReadyforBrexit, an independent Brexit advice service for SMEs and the larger companies in their supply chains

Accountants have a critical role to play in supporting their clients over Brexit.

Normally, they would expect to receive advice from government and other relevant bodies about what is happening and when. They would then use their judgment and experience to personalise this for their clients, and provide them with a detailed understanding of critical action points.

Yet, here we are in March 2019, and nobody knows whether Brexit will happen at the end of the month, or what form it might take.

Detailed government guidance has also been notable by its absence. How can civil servants advise businesses on what to do, when they don’t know themselves what is happening?

The whole legislative process has broken down, just as accountants and their clients face what could prove to be the biggest challenge of their working lives.

One key issue is that nobody under the age of 45 has any experience of operating outside the Single Market and Customs Union; trade has become much more complex since they began in 1993, as global supply chains have emerged. New and more efficient ways of working have become standard.

As Eurotunnel told parliament in the summer: “Over the past 20 years, warehouses have become trucks rolling on the road,” as “just-in-time” supply became routine.

Now, it looks as though we may be “going back to the future” and needing to reassemble the teams that operated before 1993.

I had joined ICI before then, and, as the UK’s largest company, we had teams of people to create the necessary documentation and advise on tricky issues. None of us shed any tears of regret when the need for all this effort disappeared, and we moved from a complex to a simpler way of working.

Of course, government has begun to put out Guidance Notes on a wide variety of subjects. HMRC, for example, has told parliament that 400 million new Customs Declarations will potentially need to be filed, at an estimated cost of £32.50 per declaration.

Beyond this, SMEs have largely been left to muddle through, relying on the knowledge and goodwill of their advisers to help them get to grips with one of the biggest challenges they are ever likely to face.

This is why we have set up ReadyforBrexit. Our site is effectively the one-stop shop on Brexit for EU27/UK SMEs suggested recently by the CBI.

Our team is made up of experienced business people who learnt their trade with major exporters such as ICI, BP and DuPont before moving into the SME sector. Between us, we have 250+ years of hands-on expertise in all the key areas associated with Brexit: Customs & Tariffs, Finance, Legal, Services & Employment, Supply Chain—and how they relate to SMEs.

Our focus is on EU27/UK SMEs and the larger companies they are linked to via supply chains. Our aim has been to provide advisers with the information they need to support their clients.

  • No Deal Brexit Survival Plan: the ‘must-do checklist’ for SMEs ahead of 29 March.
  • BrexSure: self-audit tool to highlight the key area(s) of risk.
  • Brexit Negotiation Update: links to all the key official websites in Brussels and the UK.
  • Brexit Directory: curated links to the detailed guidance provided in each key area by the EU, HMG and other authoritative sources on Brexit.
  • News & interviews: we have a professional journalist providing daily news and interviews with SMEs on Brexit’s impact.

Until recently, many business owners have been reluctant to commit time and energy to planning for something that might or might not happen in the future. SMEs don’t usually have lots of spare people and cash available to explore scenarios and make contingency plans.

But doing nothing is no longer an option today, given the scale of the potential challenges ahead.  Being prepared will also create the opportunity for your clients to gain the advantage, versus competitors who prefer to keep their heads stuck in the sand.

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