The British Chambers of Commerce is demanding answers to two dozen pressing questions that remain unresolved as Brexit approaches.
The national business organisation – to which Cumbria Chamber is affiliated – has published the questions in the aftermath of June’s European Council summit, where little progress was made in the Brexit negotiations.
Chambers know from feedback from member businesses that continued uncertainty is causing a slowdown in investment.
The British Chambers is calling on the Government to draw a line under internal political debate and deliver clarity on the practical, detailed issues that underpin trade – or face a continued deterioration in investment intentions.
Adam Marshall, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Over the past two years, businesses have been patient.
“We have supported the Government’s drive to seek the best possible deal for the UK economy. We have given time, expertise and real-world experience to support hard-pressed civil service negotiators.
“We have convened all across the UK to ensure that Brexit concerns can be heard by elected representatives and officials.
“Now, with the time running out ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU [next March], business patience is reaching breaking point.”
The British Chambers has adopted a traffic-light style warning system to show the state of readiness for Brexit in 24 key areas.
To date, businesses have had some assurances on the status of EU nationals in the UK workforce and on the industrial standards regime. These receive an ‘amber’ rating indicating some progress.
The other 22 remain ‘red’, indicating little or no progress, including:
On tax, whether a business will need to pay VAT on goods at point of import, and will services firms need to be registered in every EU members state where it has clients
On tariffs, what rules of origin firms will have to comply with to receive preferential tariff rates
On customs, whether goods will be subject to new procedures, and delayed at border checkpoints
On regulation, whether checks on goods conducted in the UK will be recognised by the EU
On mobility, whether businesses will be able to transfer staff between the EU and the UK using the same processes as currently
On R&D projects, whether UK businesses will be able to participate in EU projects after 2020
The British Chambers warns that time is of the essence – with many firms making contingency plans or considering investment alternatives.
Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, believes that the British Chambers is right to voice its concerns at the lack of progress.
He said: “Businesses have every right to speak out when it is abundantly clear that the practical questions affecting the competitiveness of their firms and the livelihoods of millions of people remain unanswered.
“With less than nine months go to until Brexit day, we are little closer to the answers businesses need than we were the day after the referendum in 2016.
“It’s time for politicians to stop the squabbling and the Westminster point-scoring – and start putting the national economic interest first.
“These are not ‘siren voices’ or special interests. They are the practical, real-world concerns of businesses of every size and sector, in every part of the UK.”
Here are the critical questions posed by the British Chambers:
ACCESS TO EU WORKFORCE: Will I be able to hire EU nationals in future – and under what conditions?
BUSINESS TRAVEL: Will business travel between the UK and the EU involve further administration, costs or visas?
STAFF TRANSFERS: Will my business be able to move skilled staff members between the UK and the EU in future?
HORIZON 2020: Will UK firms and institutions be able to participate in European R&D projects after 2020?
EUROPEAN INVESTMENT BANK: Will UK projects be eligible for support from the EIB after 2020?
ESIF FUNDS UK REPLACEMENT: How will the UK replacement for EU Funds work, and how can my company access opportunities?
IMPORT VAT: Will I need to pay VAT on goods at point of import? Will I be able to use postponed accounting or have access to more generous deferment account terms to offset the cash-flow issues?
SERVICES VAT: Will I need to become VAT-registered in every EU Member State where my firm has clients?
REGULATORY AGENCIES: Which regulator will be overseeing my business, and what rules do I need to follow? Is the UK government going to charge businesses for the creation of new regulatory agencies in the UK?
PRODUCT TESTING : Will conformity assessments on products conducted by a UK body continue to be sufficient for the product to be sold on the EU market?
DISPUTE RESOLUTION: What dispute resolution and means of redress will be available to my business?
INDUSTRIAL STANDARDS: What industrial standards will my firm need to comply with, and will the UK stick with the European model that we have strongly influenced?
MOBILE ROAMING: Will my business have to pay mobile roaming charges in the EU after Brexit?
CUSTOMER DATA: Will my business continue to be able to hold and transfer data and personal information without interruption after we have left the EU?
TARIFFS: Will I be able to continue trading without tariffs with the EU?
RULES OF ORIGIN: What rules of origin will I need to comply with once the UK has left the EU? Will UK and EU content to be counted as single origin, both when trading with the EU and with third countries?
CONTINUITY OF EU FTAs: Will my company still have access to markets on the same terms as now once we have left the European Union?
BUSINESS ENGAGEMENT STRUCTURE: How will my business be able to contribute directly to future trade negotiations?
AVIATION: Will I still be able to fly people and/or goods between the UK and the EU after Brexit day – or could travel be disrupted?
CUSTOMS: Will my goods be subject to new customs rules, procedures and inspections at the UK or EU border? Could shipments be held up and delayed?
INSPECTIONS: Will there be new health or safety-related inspections at the UK-EU border that my company will need to deal with?
DECLARATIONS: Will I need to do additional customs-related paperwork, including import and export declarations, when trading with the EU?
TRUSTED TRADER SCHEMES: Will my business be able to become a ‘trusted trader’ to move quickly through borders – and what will the process be?
IRELAND: What, if any, procedures will my company face trading cross-border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?