Saturday 21 September 2019

Donal O'Donovan: 'Time for business to brace for no-deal Brexit impact'

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has moved the prospect of 'no-deal' centre stage. In what appears to be a calculated gambit to capitalise on a swift general election based on his delivery of Brexit - hard or soft - he's hoping to break the impasse at Westminster that spelt the end for Theresa May.

For Irish businesses, the longer-term implications of a no-deal Brexit may well include a recession. Shorter term, the pressing issue is preparing for the immediate risks of disruption.

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But there are key steps businesses can take, including assessing their exposure.

Exporters to the UK are most at risk. Depending on the sector, that can include logistics - can you deliver to your customer where and when you said?

In a worst-case scenario, managers need to assess the risk of delayed shipments being spoiled or returned, or customers being hit with additional excise costs when goods or services are delivered.

Margins could also be hit. Steep declines in sterling will entirely wipe out margins in some sectors, and in others will mean businesses need to be factoring in pricing risk for current orders - especially heading into Christmas.

Businesses that don't sell directly into the UK still face disruption. The UK sells more goods and services into Ireland than any other country.

Sectors like retail are heavily reliant on 'just-in-time' logistics. Without contingency planning, shelves will empty fast in a hard Brexit, even if it's just for a matter of days until supply chains can be re-established.

In all sectors, managers need to assess how much their direct and indirect supply chains rely on the UK, or goods traversing the UK.

They'll need to line up possible alternatives, talk to suppliers and to make contingencies for any disruption - not only in relation to goods, but for services like banking, insurance and factoring.

Any company that imports or exports to the UK will need an Economic Operators Registration and Identification number (EORI) from Revenue. Once the UK leaves the European Union, businesses will need this to clear customs.

In the immediate wake of Brexit, all regulations in the UK and the EU will remain fully in alignment - so a car, chicken or microchip entering the Republic will still meet all of the safety and regulatory standards that apply here. All UK-made goods already here before October 31 will equally be fully compliant.

The same GDPR data rules will continue to apply in both jurisdictions.

Longer term, however, any regulatory change - in either jurisdiction - will throw that equivalence into doubt. Eventually, the EU and UK will have to strike a new trade deal.

Once the Brexit dust settles, there will be a new trading relationship. Businesses will adjust but the future will not be as smooth, or as profitable, as the current relationship for either side.

Irish Independent

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