Brexit workshop in Meriden

The announcement of a December General Election should not distract regional businesses from preparing for life outside the European Union, a Brexit workshop has been told.

More than 25 Coventry and Warwickshire-based business advisors and intermediaries attended the event in Meriden, organised by the CWLEP Growth Hub and Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, to gain valuable insight from three Brexit experts.

The Government has just confirmed a General Election for December 12 and businesses at the workshop were keen to learn more about how this could impact on their operations - and they were urged not to park preparations during the campaign.

Phil Peak, operations director of CWLEP Growth Hub & CWLEP Growth Hub Business Solutions, highlighted the dangers of failing to prepare.

He said: “The CWLEP Growth Hub has spoken to thousands of business throughout Coventry and Warwickshire and there is understandably a lot of concern.

“However, we are urging people not to bury their heads in the sand and hope it all goes away because the situation will be resolved one way or another.

“It is crucial that companies – particularly SMEs, which may have more time constraints than larger businesses – begin to prepare for life outside of the EU.

“By identifying areas of their operations that may be affected, they are taking vital steps towards shoring up their businesses going forward.”

David Hooper, director and founder of Independent Freight Solutions, outlined some of the specific areas which could affect businesses operations once the UK leaves the EU.

David said: “It is worth noting that a lot of EU customers are only just waking up to the impact of Brexit on their operations – it is starting to become clear that this will affect them as well.

“It is also important to note that a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) does not mean frictionless trade. In fact, an FTA is more reminiscent of a no-deal scenario, so it is vital that businesses are aware of this.

“Going forward, International Commercial Terms – ‘Incoterms’ – will become crucial as the UK and the European Union (EU) develop new trading arrangements.”

Finally, James Ahearne, International Trade Hub manager at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, provided an overview of Brexit preparation in the area.

James said: “Over the last 12 months we have seen a rise in the number of businesses preparing for Brexit, from 35 per cent in 2018 to 57 per cent in 2019.

“Almost two thirds of firms that trade internationally have carried out some sort of Brexit preparation.

“However, we know that there is still a long way to go for many firms and in particular there is a gap between SMEs and larger companies in terms of the level of preparedness.”

Attendees of the workshop were then encouraged to share their Brexit concerns.

One local stakeholder said that continued missed Brexit deadlines were having a demoralising effect while another highlighted the challenge of planning for a range of potential Brexit scenarios.

However, one attendee, who had previously attended a CWLEP Growth Hub-organised event, was grateful for the opportunity to come along to the free workshop.

Phil added: “The events have been useful for businesses and many have returned because they can see the benefits of hearing from experts in this field.

“There is ongoing support on offer and we encourage firms across the region to tap into what is available to them.”

For more information about how the CWLEP Growth Hub can assist businesses in planning for Brexit, click here.

For more information about the support, guidance and help available from the Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, click here.