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Taking action in the face of ongoing political uncertainty

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Ahead of the UK Parliamentary vote on the draft Withdrawal Agreement, what can Scottish companies do now to prepare for Brexit? Ewan Mearns, a senior strategist at Scottish Enterprise, explains. 

It’s understandable right now for businesses to feel that they’re unable to make any detailed preparations for Brexit. But in spite of the feverish political debate, businesses can still take action on those aspects within their control or influence.

So how can businesses usefully use this period to do something productive to prepare themselves for Brexit?

Plan for change

Firstly, given the political uncertainty, businesses need to plan on the basis that Brexit will happen. It’s wise to assume Brexit will happen (either on 29th March or later) and this means there will be changes to the business landscape.

It also makes sense to plan on the basis of a ‘worst case’ no deal scenario, where the UK Government’s no deal planning guidance will help.

Clearly, nothing is yet agreed and so we can’t plan on the basis of specifics. But using the draft Withdrawal Agreement and no deal scenarios as broad planning assumptions – versions of a ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ Brexit – to identify the contingency actions your business could take can provide a good starting point. Then, when there’s more clarity about the final outcome, you can review and firm up your actions.

Right now, a good first step is to use our self-assessment tool to identify your potential exposure to Brexit implications as well as our list of useful resources. The ‘actions to consider’ reflect both the draft Withdrawal Agreement and no deal scenarios.

What will change?

Secondly, we know that some things will change after March 2019 regardless of Brexit, so businesses should be preparing for these changes now. For example:

  • Exporters and importers will need to submit customs declarations using the new Customs Declarations Service (CDS) rather than the existing CHIEF system. HMRC have recently announced advice and grants of up to 70% to train key staff in the new system, as well as 100% grants to purchase new software
  • The EU Settlement Scheme will be accepting applications from non-UK EU citizens for the right to remain in the UK from April. Businesses should be communicating with any affected staff and should understand their plans and be able to support their staff through this process
  • We can expect further currency fluctuations which can affect the cost of imports and exports. Carrying out cash flow projections under different planning scenarios can help to stress-test your business.

Again, we recommend you use our self-assessment tool to identify what actions you should be taking now regardless of the precise Brexit outcome. Then, when things become clearer, you can refine your action plan.

A week is a long time in politics and a lot may change by January. We will be carrying out a review of all of the content on our Prepare for Brexit site when we return in January so please check back regularly for further updates.

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