22 April 2024, 23:20
By Pamela Dennison Nov 13, 2020

Is your furniture business ready for Brexit?

Brexit nears, and there are vital preparations to make before the 1st January, writes Pamela Dennison – development manager at Irish furniture storage and logistics provider WS Dennison, national officer for the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in Northern Ireland, and chair of the Northern Ireland Freight Transport Association (FTA) – who has worked to safeguard her customers’ operations since the referendum.

Around 200,000 UK businesses currently trade with Europe, and it is imperative that they protect their supply chains as the UK completes its departure from the EU. While the Government continues its negotiations with the EU with the aim of achieving a Free Trade Agreement, there is still much that businesses can do now to ensure that the goods they depend upon continue to flow across our borders. 

With less than 50 days left to the UK’s EU departure, the time to take action is now. Business must be ready to switch to new systems and new methods of trading from 1st January 2021 if their businesses are to be protected. There is still much for Government to deliver, but a timely preparation by business will help to smooth the future passage of goods and services with our largest trading partner from the start of the new year.

The preparations which businesses can make should not be reliant upon a trade deal being reached – organisations will need to take many of the same steps to maintain the supply chain whatever the political outcome in Brussels and London.

It is critical for everyone to start preparing now. For example, all importers and export traders will need to ensure they have import and export paperwork and systems ready, whatever the outcome of the political negotiations. These include applying for a Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, which is needed before any goods can be moved, and knowing the Commodity Code, incoterms and customs value of the goods, which are all needed to make a customs declaration and calculate duties.  

Start by asking yourself, do you need a custom agent, or is your haulier providing the support you need? Does your haulier know and understand they must be able to use at least eight new IT systems to make roll-on, roll-off trade move efficiently? There are five separate systems required by the UK Government, and one for each of Northern Ireland, Ireland,  France, Belgium and the Netherlands. All will take time to install and learn, and should not be left to the last minute! Start by asking your haulier if they are prepared for the high-level process flows, and what information they need from you in order to move goods through new borders.

And there are many other areas which, while seemingly innocent, could trip up the very best intentions of traders to maintain a seamless supply chain. Businesses need to ask themselves if they have considered how they will make declarations to HMRC systems, and whether they will employ an agent. It is also important to consider whether they can, and would benefit from, using any available simplifications or deferred customs declarations for standard goods.  

All this takes time, and needs to be factored into the planning process – leaving it to the last minute could be problematic at best.

Three key areas in trade, logistics and borders to consider are: understand where regulatory change may threaten supply; calculate the impact of increased costs due to customs duties and processing costs, as well as potential costs due to UK/EU regulatory divergence; and consider the impact of time delays at the border due to increased clearance times (including on inventory storage and distribution channels).

Finally, make use of the Government information available for business Brexit readiness. To find out how your business will be impacted, get information here now, plus:

GB – EU Border Operating Model, a guide to how the border with the EU will work after the transition period (excluding NI);

And the Government’s Trader Support Service, which will help businesses navigate the changes to the way goods move once the NI Protocol comes into effect.

Founded in 1979, WS Dennison now operates from two facilities – Antrim in Northern Ireland, and Limerick in the Republic of Ireland – and works with many of UK and Europe's best-known furniture manufacturers, retailers and importers. The company handles 3700 pieces of furniture on average, and is responsible for more than 700 home deliveries each week.

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