Be masters of your own destiny, export businesses urged

At a border-counties Brexit event in Cavan, attended by Minister Humphreys, SMEs are urged to focus on preparations over the coming weeks

Speaking at the Bank of Ireland ‘Get to grips with Brexit’ event in Co Cavan last week, Carol Lynch, a Partner at BDO specialising in Customs and International Trade, warned that time is running out ahead of the likely Brexit deadline of October 31

st and SMEs need to put all their focus on preparations over the next couple of weeks.

The special Border-counties-focused Brexit event was attended by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys, TD. Speaking at the event, the Minister made the point to the assembled guests that they must continue to plan ahead, focus on matters within their control, and be the masters of their own destiny.

Gavin Kelly, CEO Retail Ireland at Bank of Ireland also spoke at the event, noting the prevalence of food producers unique to the region, who will continue to remain best-placed to service the UK market with fresh products. The session drilled down into the specifics of what doing business after Brexit will mean for those operating in the border counties.

Time to focus

“To be honest it’s going to be a struggle if you haven’t done anything at this stage,” Ms Lynch warned the assembled audience. “You’ll have to really focus for the next two or three weeks and get those procedures set up, get your agents in place, identify what your tariff codes are and understand what your incoterms are.”

Ms Lynch was cognisant of the fact that many SMEs have never traded outside of the single market. She advised, “What people need to focus on is to look at their purchases and their sales and identify who are they purchasing from, who are they selling to and what the terms of trade are. There is a lot of confusion out there at the moment amongst companies who have contracts with customers and suppliers, which would have been developed during the single market. They might not be very specific; they might be quite informal.”

It is a situation which may require some difficult negotiations around where responsibilities will fall, she continued, “When you start really drilling into the contract, it becomes very questionable who has responsibility for acting as the importer and as a result who has responsibility for lodging the declaration, and for paying the customs duty. That can be quite a long and difficult conversation.”

Business concerns

A concern among many of the business owners present was the difficulty in securing a customs agent to act for them. Ms Lynch concurred, “There are a lot of companies that have tried to get clearance agents but they haven’t received any responses. That is a concern because you either have to have an agent to lodge those declarations or you need to take that in-house.” With the considerable strain on staff and resources to manage all the necessary import and export compliance in-house, Ms Lynch advised business owners, “If you currently import or export at all on a global basis, then go back to your freight forwarder and ask them if they have the facilities to act on your behalf. Go back to the people you know and who have worked for you before.”

She added, “If you have never imported or exported before try and ask around for contacts in your industry who are providing these services and see if you can get somebody that you know to work with you. Check with your hauliers, see if they set up a customs clearance facility. It’s a priority you need to focus on immediately.”

Amongst the practical advice, the only remotely optimistic note is that, Ms Lynch avers, “We have an incredibly global economy. We have a huge number of companies, particularly multinationals, importing and exporting every day—from the United States, Japan, South Korea, Australia —this trade goes on every single day of the week.” The key takeaway then, is trade after Brexit is not impossible, but requires serious education and preparation for companies who have never traded outside the single market before.

Planning ahead

John Pakenham, Planning Manager with Silver Hill Foods, also spoke at the event in Cavan. With multiple sites both north and south of the border, and 45% of their output exported to the UK, Silver Hill has been doing the groundwork over the past three years, firstly on sterling hedging, then working through Bord Bia’s Brexit Barometer and Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit Scorecard. After appointing an internal Brexit manager, an internal Brexit report was prepared to strategise around key areas: Existing and New Markets; Supply Chain; People; and Regulations. With this in place the company has been working through key steps in order to check the necessary preparations off.

For more information on Brexit preparation,

The ‘Get to grips with Brexit’ Series

Since the beginning of October Bank of Ireland has been hosting a series of ‘Get to grips with Brexit’ events across the country, for small- and medium-sized businesses. The series brings together industry experts to show you the practical steps to take to minimise disruption to your business.

The sessions cover Brexit implications from changes to tariffs and supply chain, revenue guarantees and new documentary requirements for businesses trading with the UK.

Register now to secure your place on one of the remaining sessions:

The final events in the ‘Get to grips with Brexit’ Series will take place in;

October 15th -Wexford- Newbay House Hotel. Wexford

October 16th -Dublin- Red Cow Moran Hotel, Dublin

October 16th -Galway- The Claregalway Hotel, Claregalway, Co Galway

October 18th -Donegal- The Abbey Hotel, Donegal Town

All events are free to attend. Register online at Bank of Ireland’s Brexit

Bank of Ireland is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland