The imminent EU-UK customs rule changes that will start on January 1, 2021, will seriously increase the challenges facing Irish companies trading with the Britain.
As Brexit draws ever closer, the Local Enterprise Offices have been conducting Brexit mentoring, training and Prepare Your Business for Customs workshops throughout the year to help businesses ensure they are fully prepared for this historic event.
These one-day interactive workshops, run regionally by Local Enterprise Offices, will provide businesses with a better understanding of the potential impacts, formalities and procedures to be adopted when trading with a country which is outside the Single Market and Custom Unions.
Open to all businesses, these workshops will cover areas such as what export and import procedures apply, how tariffs work and how to correctly classify goods.
Encouraging businesses to be pro-active in their preparations and have the assistance of expert business advisors for support, one-to-one mentoring sessions are designed to help companies plan and take immediate action to effectively mitigate the risks and avail of the opportunities posed by Brexit.
For companies planning to move goods to, from or through the UK after Brexit, the one-day interactive workshop is a vital preparation in advance of the formalities and procedures needed to adopt when trading with a country which is outside the Single Market and Customs Union.
“So far this year, and even with the restrictions of Covid-19, we have had 67 workshops which were attended by 835 companies,” explains John McEntegart, Head of Enterprise at LEO Monaghan and Chair of the Brexit Committee.
“We have a further 37 scheduled before the end of the year. The workshops are very broad, because they have to cover every angle. What comes out of companies attending these workshops is that participants can come back to us at LEO with their individual concerns - be they customs regulations, supply chain or paperwork issues - and we will then appoint a mentor to work with that company.”
Making the point that people under the age of 40 will likely not have any memory or concept of what customs on the border were like decades ago, the current situation has been added to by the challenges of Covid-19 happening in the same year.
“The big question is, what is going to happen in Northern Ireland - will the protocols still be there. If not, that means there will be documentation needed going both ways North to South, the same as the UK - and that is a big issue. And even if the protocols remain in place, there is still going to be paperwork between the UK and the Republic.”
Fully funded by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation through Enterprise Ireland, the aims of these workshop are to help Irish businesses understand a number of vital areas, including: the administration process around import and export procedures; customs formalities at borders; the Authorised Economic Operator process; and tariffs and their cost implications.
In addition, they will cover import procedures, such as the Electronic Declaration Process and Automated Entry Processing.
“There has never been more support available to small businesses,” John McEntegart stresses. As hubs of expert advice, information and practical supports, dedicated Local Enterprise Office teams can help manage Brexit responses through scorecards to help with planning; one-to-one mentoring; specialist training and consultancy; financial supports and access to worldwide support networks.”
The Prepare your Business for Customs workshops are open to all businesses who want to ensure they are ready for the new customs procedures that will begin on January 1.
If you are a small business who wants to avail of the programme or wants to understand if their company is Brexit Ready, then contact your Local Enterprise Office or go to www.LocalEnterprise.ie/Brexit
Carol Lynch, Partner at BDO Customs & International Trade Services in Ireland, and a member of the BDO Brexit Taskforce, is in no doubt about the urgent need for businesses to get to grips with the new customs rules. Carol and BDO work with some of the Local Enterprise Offices on the delivery of the Prepare Your Business for Customs workshops.
“The UK has left the European Union, and we’re now in transition until January 1st, 2021,” she said. “It’s important that businesses use this time wisely in order to prepare for trading with the UK in 2021. Ultimately, trading with the UK will be like trading with any other non-EU country, so if you haven’t traded outside the EU before, it’s essential that you know what to expect and make any preparations necessary to deal with the changes.”
Essentially, customs is another tax, complete with forms and payments, but with the UK being a part of the EU for so long, it is something that many businesses and individuals won’t be familiar with.
“The first step for everybody is to start learning about customs rules and regulations,” advises Carol. According to Revenue, the biggest single reason that goods are stopped at border crossings is due to data errors – so it is imperative that the person filling out the forms is experienced and well trained.
“It’s a very difficult process. There are two essential streams of information that you are including on the form – the first is in relation to customs and tax, with the second relating to the freight and movement of goods.”
No matter what type of industry a business is in everyone will experience some form of impact from Brexit. Some of the issues that will be faced from a Customs and Trade perspective are: customs duty; import VAT; border delays; additional costs e.g. clearance agents; additional documentation e.g. import and export documentation; and new procedures e.g. how and when to lodge import and export SADs, etc; and new licenses.
“Depending on the industry in which the company is involved in their issues may also be slightly different,” Carol adds. “For example, the food industry will have customs duty and border delays high on their agenda, the construction industry will have border delays high on their agenda, while textiles would be impacted by high duty rates primarily and IT may have to consider export controls.”
Not alone does each industry experience each issue differently, but each company within the industries will be effected differently.
Carol underlines the benefits of undertaking workshops and training in customs: “Everyone should do some customs training. There are different levels; the Skillnet course is detailed training on how to fill out the form yourself, while Local Enterprise Offices are providing one day training courses on what customs is all about.
"Enterprise Ireland’s own customs insights course is available on Prepare for Brexit, while the Revenue and Enterprise Ireland customs webinar can be viewed onsite also. This is more than enough for most companies who will be employing an agent. And then Bord Bia is offering specific customs training for food and agri clients. I would urge anyone to avail of the training – it’s free and it’ll take the fear factor away.”
Another firm believer in the value of the LEO workshops is MIAS Pharma in Dublin, a company which has been supported extensively by Local Enterprise Office Fingal.
MIAS Pharma provides contract services to enable import and Qualified Person release of human medicinal products into Europe, as underlined in its mission statement: ‘To accelerate the availability of medicines to patients within the EU.’
The company holds two Manufacturing and Importation Authorisations to cover Investigational Medicinal Products and Commercial Products. Set up by Ann McGee in 2016, the company vision is: “To be the supply chain oversight partner of choice for International Pharma/Biopharma companies for product release into Europe.”
Far-reaching changes and consequences are to be expected after 1 January 2021, it advises, and even if the EU and the United Kingdom decide on an agreement by the end of 2020, the future relationship will be very different from the current situation in the internal market with customs union.
“We help companies maintain continuity in the face of Brexit, leveraging our licenses to enable them bring products into the EU,” explains Graham, McCarthy, Business Manager, MIAS Pharma.
“We help their supply chain to get to the right markets and minimise obstructions where possible. Trying to get drugs now into the UK is a messy situation that we are trying to work through, and these customs workshops offer a high level view of what we need to do.”
2020 has been the company’s biggest year to date sales-wise in supporting UK companies to become Brexit ready to ensure that they can continue to release drugs into the EU market and maintain clinical trial continuity post-Brexit.
With the January 1st deadline approaching, businesses still have the time to make the changes to ensure the impact is minimised. The LEO workshops can play a central role in helping any business look ahead to the New Year with confidence.
For more information on Local Enterprise Office 'Prepare your Business for Customs' workshops, visit your local LEO office or go to: