Brexit questions remain unanswered, British Chambers of Commerce warns

UK businesses are still left with unanswered questions, leaving them unprepared with less than a month before the Brexit transition period ends, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has warned.

The organisation said businesses still do not know what rules of origin will apply to them, which are needed to establish how products need to be produced and manufactured to qualify for preferential tariff rates under various trade agreements.

The BCC said this is preventing businesses and their customers from planning and potentially creating additional costs, and could be influencing location and supply chain decisions.

There is also very limited guidance on the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, and there is no information on how UK tariff rate quotas will be administered or how businesses can access them beyond the transition period, the BCC said.

Its Brexit guidance dashboard, which is used to evaluate the quality of official Government guidance, still has 24 of 35 key questions flashing red or amber.

Five of the questions frequently asked by businesses are given a red rating, which indicates “wholly inadequate information on which to plan”, while 19 were marked amber, indicating that some information is available but gaps remain.

To help businesses adjust to the new procedures and systems that will come into force from January 1, the BCC is urging the Government to grant a temporary waiver of the £300 fine for hauliers who are not “border ready” when they arrive at Channel ports, due to genuine errors in their documentation.

The BCC’s director general Adam Marshall said:  “With just weeks to go, businesses need answers, and they need them now.

Work continues on an area near Sevington in Ashford, Kent, where the Government is developing a 27-acre site into a post-Brexit lorry park (Gareth Fuller/PA)

“Posters and television adverts are no substitute for the clear, detailed and actionable information businesses require to prepare for the end of transition.

“None of the issues businesses are grappling with are new, they have all been raised repeatedly over the past four years.”

It comes as negotiations for a post-Brexit trade deal resumed in Brussels on Sunday after Boris Johnson and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen ordered a push to try to overcome the remaining differences.

Mr Marshall added: “We welcome the fact that UK and EU leaders are still talking, as the overwhelming majority of businesses want the two sides to reach an agreement.

“If a breakthrough happens over the coming hours and days, the two sides must immediately set to work on pragmatic steps to smooth the introduction of the new arrangements from January.”

A Government spokesperson said significant preparations are being made for the changes at the end of the transition period, including investing £705 million in jobs, technology and infrastructure at the border and £84 million in grants to boost the customs intermediaries sector.

She added: “This is alongside implementing border controls in stages so traders have more time to prepare.

“We’re intensifying our engagement with businesses through the Brexit business taskforce and running a major public information campaign so they know what they need to do to get ready.”

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