Brexit confusion continues for third of firms as UK-EU talks go down to the wire

December 8, 2020

A third of South West firms still do not know if they will be impacted by Brexit with less than four weeks to go to the end of the UK-EU transition period, according to a new survey.

At the same time 46% are worried that Brexit could have a bigger impact on them than Covid-19. 

Business West – the region’s largest business organisation – staged the survey to find out how prepared the region’s firms will be when new trading arrangements start on January 1.

The group, which runs the Swindon & Wiltshire Initiative, also repeated its warning that leaving without a deal would mean a “real risk of a big shock” for many of the region’s businesses next year.

Some 41% of the 500 businesses that took part said the UK’s departure from the EU Single Market and Customs Union at the end of the transition period on New Year’s Eve would impact them.

A further 32% said that they remained in the dark on whether they would be impacted – a fact that Business West put down to the degree of complexity and uncertainty that surrounds the unravelling of the UK’s trade arrangements with the EU, its largest trading partner.

When the firms that know there will be an impact and those that are not sure were added together just 36% of them said they had a “comprehensive insight and understanding of the consequences” it would have on their operations. 

Alarmingly, 12% of businesses – mainly small and medium-sized firms – admitted they still had no understanding of the impact of Brexit whatsoever.

Less than a third of all the businesses that took part in the survey – which was held before the UK-EU talks over the weekend – said that they felt equipped to adapt, while a quarter confessed to being unprepared.

Business West said agreeing a trade deal with the EU carried added importance for businesses in the region as just over 90% of the 200-plus respondents that regularly export goods or services abroad, do so to European countries.

Business West managing director Phil Smith, pictured, said: “While much of the media attention of the last few days has been on the theatrics of UK and EU negotiations, our findings highlight the worrying practical concerns that businesses still have and the vital importance of agreeing a deal.

“Even at this late stage many businesses say they still have a limited understanding of the impact of Brexit on their business or report they are not fully prepared for the UK’s departure.

“There is a real risk of a big shock to local firms if we leave without a deal. It also underlines the importance of a deal that includes phase-in times to give businesses further time to adapt – a deal without delays in enforcement of the new rules risks creating a big economic bump in January.

“It is time to stop the drama, conclude the deal and give further time and support for local businesses to adapt. After a tough 2020, this is not the time to drag the economy through further uncertainty in the coming months.”

Business West has been running its award-winning Trading Through Brexit service for the past two years to help companies prepare for business outside the EU.

It is also pointing out that customs declarations will be needed when trading with any country outside of the EU. For more information visit:

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