Today marks just 45 days, a month and a half, until the 29th of March, the Brexit scheduled date when the UK is due to leave the EU.
Currently we appear no closer to knowing what our trading relationship with the EU will be, or indeed most of the rest of the world. Whilst there’s still time for a transition period to be agreed, it is dependant on the Prime Minister getting a deal with the EU that MPs in Parliament will agree on. With the EU unwilling to re-open the deal on the table and MPs not willing to pass it, there are few options left. Theresa May is today due to ask MPs for a further two weeks grace to try and stitch a deal together that’s acceptable to all.
One thing that many MPs have called for is an extension to the Brexit scheduled date to allow more time for negotiation. We’ve only had two years of uncertainty and the EU stance in general appears to be that they’ll deny this unless a concrete proposal is on the table. They’re pretty much fed up with the whole thing and want to get on with running the EU and, if they can’t see a route through for a deal with the UK, are probably inclined to throw in the towel, let the UK crash out without a deal and get on with their lives.
This leave online merchants with a massive problem. We still don’t know what to prepare for, if shipments of stock coming into the UK will be assessed for tariffs and what those tariffs might be and if there will be tariffs on sales to the EU.
We’ve heard from some merchants that they are already relocating stock into the EU, mostly through Amazon FBA, but some through independent fulfilment houses. Whilst this move would appear to make sense, it’s a short term move and as soon as the stock is depleted the issue of our trading relationship with the EU will have to be faced. If you have the stock on hand however, this is one tactic that will at least throw the Brexit problem a month or two down the road and give time to plan.
The government has been particularly useless in putting any information for small businesses and marketplace traders together. Their Trading with the EU if there’s no Brexit deal advice is vague and non-specific and only really useful for larger businesses who export low volume large value shipments. There’s nothing to suggest what a merchant might face from tariffs, customs procedures and courier costs for the first fifty quid pair of shoes they sell to an EU consumer on the 30th of March.
Whilst we are largely all waiting for politicians to give some indication of what the future after the Brexit scheduled date of the 29th of March holds, what plans do you have in place? Are you crossing your fingers that Article 50 will be repealed and Brexit cancelled? Is your hope that a transition deal will be put in place, which merely kicks the problems another two years down the road, or are you confident that in the event the UK leaves the EU without a deal that your business will be able to cope?