Post-Brexit trigger – what exporters need to know

With Article 50 now invoked, the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) is urging exporters to stay up-to-date on Brexit negotiations so that they can plan ahead.

Key issues for businesses involved in international trade include the unpredictability and complexity of trade negotiations; EU member countries’ individual agendas; life outside the Single Market; the viability of free trade agreements (FTAs) - and preparing for increased tariffs and trade barriers.

Arne Mielken, young president of the IOE&IT - which aims to boost the UK’s export performance by raising professional standards in international trade management and practice - says that EU law will automatically cease to apply in a maximum of two years, unless it is unanimously decided by the UK and the EU to extend this period.

He said: “There is little time for governments to work on a withdrawal agreement and much more to agree on than trade. While the UK hopes to secure a bespoke deal for generous access to the EU Single Market through a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), that outcome is far from certain. Crucially, the EU Council, European Parliament with its veto powers and the 27 Member States (and possibly some regional parliaments) each with different interests must also agree any future deal.”

The young president also warns that trade arrangements might be derailed by other complex issues to be discussed.

“This means that trading with EU countries could become more complicated and international trade agreements and customs and border arrangements will have to be revised carefully to factor in the UK’s exclusion. This rethink will take in its entire trade and customs policies, including everyday essential global trade matters. It will affect the quota, tariff, valuation, origin and supply chain security of every company trading with us.”

He added that with the imposition of duties and non-tariff trade barriers like licenses and certificates, well established supply chains could shift, especially in areas of high regulatory control (for example, car manufacturing).

“I fear that an EU/UK FTA is not the solution for frictionless trade that most UK business are asking for. Crucially, as a free trade deal is a contract between two nations, it can never be as ambitious as sharing a free and open single market. Free trade may mean a duty reduction, but it will require the development and passage of massive administrative infrastructure, documentation and certificates.”

Warning that the only certainty is uncertainty, he concluded with the advice that exporters should add trade delays and disruptions to their future contingencies.

To help them do this, the IOE&IT is running a series of Post Brexit workshops to help businesses examine their existing export and import activity. They are designed to help them establish where to go from here and spread their risks.

Its professional customs qualification covers a comprehensive range of in-depth customs compliance and regulation issues to prepare exporters to trade after Brexit.

For further details, go to www.export.org.uk