Brexit plans for SMEs ramping up

Research shows that small firms are the least prepared for Brexit and a no-deal scenario, so the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has issued a checklist of six factors which small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should check and prepare for before 31 October.

According to the BEIS, SME owners should check:

1. Their employees’ professional qualifications are recognised in the UK, European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland

Business owners need to make sure their employees’ professional qualifications are recognised in the countries they are operating in. EEA (EU and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) or Swiss qualified professionals working in UK-regulated professions will need their qualifications recognised by the relevant UK regulator.

UK professionals working in the EEA or Switzerland will need their qualifications recognised by the relevant regulator in the country they want to work in.

The Government has issued further guidance on this on its ‘Businesses and charging VAT’ webpage.

2. Whether they need to help employees apply for the EU Settlement Scheme

This scheme will help some of their international employees secure their rights in the UK and applicants have until at least 31 December 2020 to apply.

Employers can help their EU, EEA and Swiss staff get the information they need to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme by visiting the Government’s ‘EU Settlement Scheme Employer Toolkit’.

3. Whether their current contracts allow them to legally receive personal data from the EU/EEA after Brexit

Business owners should check how they can legally continue to receive personal data such as names, addresses or payroll details from organisations in the EU or EEA after 31 October.

They may need to update their contracts or take other steps. An example of a personal data transfer from an EU/EEA partner is a UK company that receives customer information from an EU/EEA company, such as names and addresses of customers, suppliers or partners to provide goods or services.

Find additional information at the Government’s ‘Using personal data in your business or organisation if there’s no Brexit deal’ webpage or visit the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidance for ‘data protection and Brexit’.

4. Requirements to operate in EU member states

Business owners should check the regulations for EU/EEA countries that they work in to ensure they can still operate there, as UK businesses, service providers, employees and self-employed persons may face additional legal, regulatory and administrative barriers, including visas or work permits.

Visit the Government’s ‘Businesses and charging VAT’ webpage for more information.

5. Requirements for new customs and VAT procedures at the border when trading with EU

To continue importing from and exporting to the EU after 31 October there are changes many businesses will need to make now. They will need to make sure they have an Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number that starts with GB. This is free to register for on the Government’s EORI webpage.

For businesses that import, there’s also the option of applying to use transitional simplified procedures (TSP). This will help them to streamline the importing process and is aimed at those companies with less experience in customs procedures.

Find step-by-step guides and further information on importing and exporting on the Government’s ‘Import, export and customs for businesses’ webpage.

6. Whether any EU funding will be guaranteed

The Government has guaranteed that UK organisations will continue to receive funding over their projects’ lifetimes if they have successfully bid into EU-funded programmes up to the end of 2020. Payments can extend beyond 2020.

To find out about a specific fund, visit the Government’s ‘European and domestic funding after Brexit’ webpage.

A spokesperson for the BEIS has said: “While it remains the Government’s ambition to secure a deal, businesses must be ready for the possibility that we will leave the EU without one.

“Brexit will bring important changes to doing business, but the level of business preparedness is mixed.

“Businesses want us to end the current uncertainty. Many large businesses are ready, but there are still thousands of small and medium-sized businesses that need to take key steps to make sure they are fully prepared for Brexit on 31 October.”

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