EU Exit Business Readiness Forum 31st January 2019
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) held their first EU Exit Business Readiness Forum on Thursday 31st January BEIS central London offices in Victoria.
The forum was hosted by Donna Leong, Director EU Exit Business Readiness in BEIS with Penny Fox, Director of Communications and Partnerships (BEIS); Gavin Lambert, Director of Advanced Manufacturing & Services (BEIS); Rania Leontaridi, Director of Business Growth (BEIS) and Syma Cullasy-Aldridge, Head of Business and International Engagement (DEXEU).
The Forum was aimed primarily at representative organisations such as trade associations and professional bodies in order to reach as many businesses as possible and gauge the level of understanding and uptake of information already circulated by the government and what could be done to improve this including focusing on policy gaps, content gaps and business interaction with the web tools available. The forum is likely to be hosted on a weekly basis until March 2019 and although it is likely to take place in BEIS London offices, it is possible that regional events may take place in the future.
Penny Fox gave an update on the public information campaign and tools for businesses that are available here, adding that the government was investing in advertising to ensure business awareness and that the campaign site had received around 30,000 hits. Despite this however, there is an awareness that many businesses have not made sufficient preparations whilst 4 out of 10 businesses say they won’t activate any plans until conditions of the EU withdrawal or any deal is made clear.
Whilst most of the information is generic, attendee packs did include draft sector specific information (1-2 pages) which the government is hoping to finalise and add to the campaign website shortly. These covered areas such as the chemicals, automotive, aerospace and construction sectors as well as gas markets, electricity sector, oil & gas production and the retail sector and included short sections on importing and exporting, employees, data and regulations & standards. It is envisaged that around 18 sectors will be covered by these specific templates, with DEFRA also issuing sector specific information in a mirrored template.
A query was raised as to whether information would also be available as role specific for example HR Director, which the panel noted. A further query was raised as to import and export information suggesting that it would help businesses if a timeline could be added, showing how long particular steps should take or a priority list to give businesses clear guidance on what steps should be taken first. Although the EORI system was discussed, it is still not clear how long it could potentially take to obtain as some delegates suggested registration could take up to 12-18 months.
Syma Cullassy-Aldridge gave a brief update on the latest developments including the potential re-negotiation of elements of the withdrawal bill and the enactment of EU Legislation into UK law. When a query was raised as to the time line for implementation of key legislation, or how much had been enacted Ms Cullasy-Aldridge was unable to confirm, advising only that additional staff had been drafted across to the department for this work and it was moving at pace.
When discussing the information available, representatives from various industries spoke of a lack of clarity in what steps businesses should take as a priority, how long certain steps would take (for example applying for an EORI number) and the type of language used in the information. At this point the panel acknowledged that much of the original content including text of technical notices was written for a specific purpose and was not easily digestible.
Further queries were also raised in relation to the manufacture and supply of goods in the home market and how compliance could change, for example with reference to the CE Mark and any new UK specific compliance marking, and the apparent lack of information available at this stage.
In relation to import and export involving 3rd party countries that is currently covered by free trade arrangements, the panel confirmed that if the UK leaves without a deal, this would default to standard World Trade Organisation terms. In order to assist with queries on tariffs and trade documents, the government aims to set up a mirror resource to the EU information that is currently available, although no timeline was given on this.
The panel were clear that they did not currently have all the answers and that they were open to further suggestions and suggesting that delegate organisations who had already developed any sector specific information to share this in order to promote consistency.
In the meantime, we would urge both members and non-members alike to regularly view the information available at www.gov.uk/EUexit and in particular https://euexit.campaign.gov.uk/, raising any feedback on the accessibility and relevance of the information that is available.