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How can I plan for Brexit when I don't know what it looks like?

Uncertainty about Brexit outcomes should not put businesses off planning. A senior strategist for Scotland's Prepare for Brexit campaign emphasises the need for companies to take action now to manage risk effectively.

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Ewan Mearns, a senior strategist at Scottish Enterprise, is convinced that it makes sense for businesses to act now to prepare for Brexit, while they still have time to address key issues.

Ewan says: “Planning for a range of potential Brexit outcomes puts businesses of all sizes in a much stronger position. We would encourage all businesses to use the Prepare for Brexit self-assessment tool to plan their approach."

Brexit impacts all sectors and business size

No matter the size or sector, the potential impacts of Brexit are relevant to all businesses across Scotland.

“We're aware that Brexit will affect a great many businesses in Scotland, not just those that export. Sectors such as food and drink, the creative industries, and tourism should all be considering the potential impacts," Ewan adds.

Planning for different outcomes

There are lots of actions you can take right now, deal or no deal. For example:

  • Appoint a senior leader or a team to drive forward planning
  • Assess what’s required to submit new customs declaration paperwork
  • Find out if EU staff intend to remain in the UK, and arrange staff training or recruitment if needed
  • Review existing legal contracts to reflect any changes required

Thinking about a no deal scenario, it will also be important to:

  • Model cash flow projections to assess the need for extra working capital
  • Consider the costs of new trade tariffs or possible currency fluctuations
  • Evaluate the implications of possible import and export delays as a result of any border disruption

Only 33% of companies are planning for Brexit

Research shows that only 33%* of companies are actively planning for Brexit just now. However, 45% of businesses say that they intend to start.

Ewan says: “In periods of change, businesses that are agile and adaptable are most likely to benefit.

“Our Prepare For Brexit tools and resources have been developed to enable firms to self-assess, formulate a plan, and break preparation down into manageable chunks.

"A ‘wait and see’ approach is becoming increasingly high-risk as it takes time to plan, train or recruit staff, and invest in new systems."

Taking the first step to planning for Brexit

Simon Dexter leads a team of Scottish Enterprise business advisers, based in Aberdeen, he says:

“It can be a challenge for small or medium businesses to raise their eyes from the everyday business of running the company, to consider the ‘what if’ type questions.

“Brexit demands businesses to be proactive, and it's made doubly challenging because of current uncertainty about the outcomes.

“Right now, companies need to know more about the implications of Brexit for trade tariffs.

"They need to understand how it will affect EU workers in Scotland, and if visas are going to be needed for cross-border EU travel. And they will want to understand the potential impact of Brexit on the exchange rate.

“Using the resources we've provided can help businesses do the strategic thinking, so they are poised to take opportunities when they arise.”

Support to plan your Brexit strategy

Scotland’s enterprise and skills agencies have been working together to provide the right resources for Scottish companies of all sizes.

Start with the Prepare for Brexit self-assessment tool to consider the implications and formulate a plan.

Then, contact an adviser for one-to-one help.

With a plan in place, some businesses may be eligible for support with implementing their Brexit plan.

*Statistics based on a survey of 1,200 growth companies working with Scottish Enterprise

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