A deal is now agreed between the UK and the EU. New rules will affect how we do business and how we live and travel.
For many businesses uncertainty still abounds, but there are resources out there intended to guide and assist. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the information available, from government tools and grants to webinars and workplace materials.
Where to start?
The first port of call should be the UK government’s dedicated Brexit hub for business. It starts with a few questions about your company: where you’re based and where and how you do business, along with what sectors you work in. The information is used to tailor results.
For example, I said I was a sole trader based in the UK, but working with clients in the EU in the motor trade. It suggested various useful resources and key information, including how to get approval to sell vehicles and vehicle parts in the UK and EU, and a link to the Vehicle Certification Agency, part of the Department for Transport.
The hub includes government news about the transition period and withdrawal, and links to relevant sites. You can also sign up for email updates. This website is for England and Wales – see below for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The government has dedicated advice portals for each of the areas most affected by Brexit, especially imports and exports. Grants are available to help with custom declarations; find out eligibility criteria and how to apply. The application process is being run by PwC on behalf of HMRC.
EU citizens working in the UK need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if they want to continue living in the UK after 30 June 2021. The government’s Employer Toolkit includes an introduction to the scheme, a template letter for EU citizen staff, factsheets, posters and other materials for workplaces. Together, these cover all the main areas of the scheme, including eligibility, the application process, what support is available and deadlines.
Citizens Advice also has information for EU workers.
How data is handled will also change from 1 January 2021. The best resources have been compiled by the Information Commissioner’s Office, and include webinars, FAQs and specific advice for SMEs.
Other UK government resources include a series of free webinars hosted by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. The webinars cover 16 subjects, from construction and chemical regulations to intellectual property. Simply choose your webinar, fill in some basic details about your business – where you are based, your sector and how many staff you have – and you’re good to go.
Scotland and Northern Ireland
The Scottish government has a dedicated Brexit website for businesses, Prepare for Brexit, as well as a general Brexit portal. Also helpful is the Find Business Support site. The service was set up to enable Scottish businesses to access appropriate public sector support, and it includes a Brexit section. The website contains considerable information, or you can talk to an advisor, either online or by calling (0300) 303 0660.
In Northern Ireland, there is a dedicated website containing Brexit data, including detailed information on the NI Protocol, and one with advice tailored specifically to business. As might be expected, with the region so uniquely affected by Brexit, the Northern Ireland Executive is providing considerable support. Resources include the Trader Support Service, which provides free training and support on custom processes that will arise for goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Invest NI, the regional business development agency, also has considerable resources on offer, from its EU Exit Resilience Tool to a Brexit Preparation Grant. The grant offers financial support up to a maximum of £50,000 to help businesses plan for a post-EU environment.
What information is the European Union providing?
Just as the British and devolved governments have dedicated Brexit portals, so does the European Commission. Its Brexit website includes numerous documents to download, from background to the Withdrawal Agreement, to a checklist for European companies who want to do business with the UK after 31 December.
What about more local or regional support?
For London-based businesses, The Business Hub, which was set up to support SMEs in the capital, has a dedicated EU Transition Business Resource Hub. It includes guides, webinars and podcasts.
For those in Greater Manchester and the north west, a good starting point is the Business Growth Hub. Much like the London hub, it has a dedicated Brexit website that includes toolkits for imports, exports and staffing issues, plus a ten-point checklist.
Leeds has a similar, if slightly less comprehensive, service for companies in the Yorkshire area.
Indeed, most regions and local areas have various online advice and resources. For example, in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, the D2N2 Growth Hub provides resilience advice as part of its Brexit offering. Check with your local council to see what resources they may be providing.
What else is available?
There’s considerable sector-specific advice available. For financial firms, The Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have set up Brexit portals. The FCA is also operating a Brexit telephone line: (0800) 048 4255.
UK Finance, the trade association for the banking and finance industry, has a dedicated Brexit section on its website focused, as expected, on finance and banking.
UK Finance launched a campaign in 2019 called Let’s Talk Business, to outline the capacity and commitment of banks to support SMEs. The campaign’s dedicated Brexit page has information and Q&As, including links to sector-specific sites.
Away from finance, and some of the best advice for the car, construction, manufacturing and retail sectors is available at the relevant trade bodies: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Build UK, Make UK and the British Retail Consortium. The National Farming Union also has some good Brexit resources.
Similarly, the UK’s business organisations have a wealth of support available. The British Chambers of Commerce has developed a Brexit information hub and the Federation of Small Businesses has a range of resources available online, including interviews with experts and a free Trade Finance Guide.
The Confederation of British Industry, meanwhile, has set up the UK Transition Hub. As well as the expected wide range of resources and information, and links to external sites, it allows businesses to provide feedback on how Brexit may be affecting them. The CBI compiles a number of closely-watched surveys so your voice and opinions could prove valuable.
The next steps
There are many resources out there. But that can, at times, feel like a problem in itself. The sheer volume can be daunting, especially for busy small business owners struggling to pinpoint which resources will suit them best or meet their needs.
But do not be put off. It’s imperative that all businesses that deal with the EU find out how they are affected, and ensure they are ready for life outside the EU. Start at the government’s official transition website and don’t be afraid to contact your advisors and your trade bodies too.
2021 will be new territory for most: it’s essential small business owners are as prepared as possible.
The above article is intended as general information and does not constitute advice in any way. You should take independent advice if you have any questions about your specific circumstances.
This blog post was updated on 31 December 2020, after the Brexit deal was signed.