Although the UK officially left the EU almost a year ago, we’ve been working through a transition period. This means that even though we’re not in the EU, life has carried on more-or-less as normal (at least, as normal as anything could be in 2020!).
From the 1st January 2021, things will change.
While we won’t know exactly how they’ll change until the UK and the EU have agreed the final terms of our departure (deal or no-deal!), there are some things we can prepare for now. These aren’t difficult or complicated, but they do require action from you. So what should you be doing now to ensure your business is Brexit-ready?
Don’t get left out in the cold
You might have agreements that you signed years ago, that give you rights to use resources, resell products or access markets ‘in the EU’. This time last year, that included you – on 1st January, it won’t!
While it’s unlikely that your suppliers or customers are going to close their door to you after the 1st January on the basis of a ‘technicality’, tidying this up is an important piece of housekeeping. Otherwise you might be inadvertently breaching a contract by selling a product in a geographical area (the UK) that’s not permitted by the agreement.
You can start this exercise now, by reviewing your existing contracts and identifying where they make reference to the EU. That might be in relation to territories, for example, or specific bits of legislation that apply.
Once you’ve identified where changes need to be made, you’ll want to prepare some contract amendments to fix them. Then it’s a matter of some quick discussions with the suppliers or customers concerned, to get the amendments signed.
Build a data bridge to Europe
If you have customers, suppliers or partners within the EU, chances are you’re processing personal data of EU data subjects.
To do this, you need to have a representative in the EU, who can be the point of contact for those individuals, and for the European enforcement bodies. Up until now, we’ve all been our own EU representatives – but from 1st January, we’ll need to have someone within the European Union to do this role for us.
If you have a European entity within your business group, you could nominate them as your EU representative. Otherwise, you might want to appoint a specialist company. These are available for relatively little money (only €150/year for small quantities of personal data), and will ‘tick the box’ so that you can continue to handle EU data safely.
The companies offering an EU representative service will expect you to provide them with a comprehensive record of processing activities (ROPA). If you don’t have this, Devant can help you pull it together.
Identify your allies
If you ship physical goods to the EU but not elsewhere in the world, you may not have worked with a customs agent or freight forwarder before. If you’re used to shipping around the world, these wonderful people will have been a feature of your business life for some time.
Finding a good customs agent or freight forwarder will make your post-Brexit life much less stressful. You’ll need to apply for an EORI number (go onto the HMRC website – it’s a five minute task!), but your agent will help you with the rest.
When looking for your new EU ally, ask around for recommendations from other business owners who’ve been in the export business for a while. Check references, review terms and make sure they’re the right partner for you. Remember that you’re ultimately responsible for getting the customs paperwork right, so choosing a knowledgeable and efficient export partner will significantly reduce your risk of errors.
While none of these tasks is especially difficult, what they all require is time and attention. It’s best not to leave this to the last minute. Tempting though it is to ignore these things, when it comes to commercial relationships, time pressure can encourage us to agree to sub-optimal terms! So give yourself a head start in the post-Brexit world, and get cracking now. As always, your Devant team is here to help guide and support you – just give us a call to set up a free, no-obligation initial call, to see what we can do to ease your transition into 2021.