At the beginning of 2020, more than three years after voting to leave the EU (and David Cameron’s famous resignation on the steps of Downing Street), the UK formally departed as a member state. Up until Christmas Eve 2020 when a long-awaited trade deal was finally struck, the UK found itself in a state of limbo as we tirelessly negotiated with EU parties regarding the additional arrangements and details during what was termed a transition period. During this period existing rules on trade, travel and business for the UK and EU continued to apply. However, as we waved goodbye to 2020 on December 31st, we also said farewell to the transition period and all the existing rules within it.
New year, new rules, but what does the free trade deal between the UK and EU mean and what do the new rules mean for your business?
The aim of any free trade deal is essentially to encourage trade by making it cheaper. This is often achieved by reducing or eliminating tariffs (taxes or charges by governments for trading goods across borders). Trade agreements also strive to remove any limits set on the amount of goods which can be traded. Trade between countries can be made simpler if everyone plays by the same rules, that way the less likely it will be that goods need to be checked. After Brexit happened, it was important that the UK decided and agreed the rules for our future trading relationship with our largest and closest trading partner, the EU, to ensure no tariffs or quotas would be introduced. Without a deal some goods would have become more expensive.
What exactly is in the EU-UK trade deal?
Well, to avoid reciting the full 1,200-page document to you, we recommend having a glimpse at the BBC’s concise EU-UK trade deal summary, you will notice that not everything stays the same. For example, as the UK will no longer following the EU’s rules on product standards, businesses will need to get used to new checks. This will undoubtedly mean more paperwork and associated delays if businesses turn up to ports unprepared. Strict EU laws on animal products will mean some UK products can no longer be exported. Plus, the deal does not completely eliminate the possibility of tariffs in the future and we will need to keep a close eye on the shared rules in areas like worker’s rights and environmental protection. If either side shifts their rules too far, the other party may decide to introduce tariffs.
What does all this mean for your business?
In a nutshell, you need to take action immediately to ensure your business complies with the new requirements. Failure to do so may result in the day-to-day operation of your business being interrupted or set back. The first thing we recommend is that you visit gov.uk/transition where you can use the handy checker tool to identify the actions that your business needs to take. The checker tool will ask you questions about your business and provide all the information you need to be aware of such as new rules on:
- Importing and exporting.
- Moving goods to and from Northern Ireland including Trader Support Service.
- Travelling abroad for work.
- Hiring staff from the EU.
Did you know?
You can sign up to receive updates on the specific actions you need to take once you have used the checker tool at gov.uk/transition. Plus, you can sign up to receive the regular Business Readiness Transition Bulletin which is an email newsletter providing information on major announcements and recently published advice.
We understand that this is a challenging time and encourage you to keep your business moving by using the Brexit checker tool to get personalised actions for you, your business, and your family. The Bells team are here to help you in anyway we can, particularly if you are a start-up business keen to avoid interruption to your new venture.