BDO partner Carol Lynch asks: are your supply firms ready for post-Brexit trading?
With 65 pre cent of Business in a recent BDO Optimism Index survey admitting they haven't reviewed their supply chains to gauge Brexit, there are grounds for concern that many Irish businesses are putting on the long-finger that which needs to be done now.
Indeed in the same survey only 24 per cent of Irish businesses believe they are more prepared for Brexit than their suppliers and customers.
"I believe that businesses are not sure what to think and there's a swing between worrying that there will be a hard Brexit and hoping there won't be," explained Carol Lynch, partner with BDO customs and International Trade Services.
"This does not address the fact that there will be a Brexit, however, and so planning needs to take place to prepare for this. In many ways this is regardless of the type of Brexit which takes place," she told the Sunday Business Post.
There have been repeated calls for a transition period to be established after Britain leaves the European Union so that businesses, such as exporters here in Ireland and those importing goods from mainland Britain or Northern Ireland, can adapt to the evolving situation.
Lynch is fearful that the clock is ticking, and not enough sufficient progress is being made in this regard.
"Unfortunately the problem at the moment is that time is running out to be prepared. If Brexit were to occur in March 2019 then we are in extremely high-risk territory now. For example, if we look at Trusted Trader Status - which enables a simplification of the movement of goods across the border and is being heavily pushed by the UK authorities as one of the solutions to a seamless border - it will take most companies about a year to comply, between preparing the application and securing authorisation. Therefore, this would leave us at April/May 2019 for implementation, i.e. post Brexit."
The recent DO Optimism Index survey found that businesses believed 38 per cent of suppliers were prepared for the impact of Brexit on business, with only 24 per cent citing themselves as Brexit-ready, and eight per cent saying they do not believe they are prepared at all.
BDO Customs and International Trade Services Ltd advise on a range of issues relating to international and European customs and trade, and have established a network of experts across the EU, the US and Asia, advising clients on import and export issues in any of these jurisdictions. With a speciality in risk management, the company is perfectly based to assess the level of concern in the wider business community to Brexit and its implications for Irish-British trade.
But is enough being done at a government and departmental level to make Irish businesses aware of the need to take action now, to review supply change, diversify and seek alternative markets?
Lynch says yes... and no.
"There are a lot of resources out there, but companies are not neccesarrily aware of them. I would point to InterTrade Ireland's Brexit Vouchers, the various Enterprise Ireland grants and loans, Bord Bia's Diversification programmes, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland loan etc. Companies are being advised heavily to prepare but they are not necessarrily aware of the time constraints they are under."
The message to Irish business then is to look for the help you need, and you'll find its ready and waiting.
And its not all doon and gloom. With one hand Brexit may take away but with the other it may, unwittingly, provide Irish business with real opportunities to flourish.
There may be a silver lining of sorts, as Carol Lynch explains: "Yes there are great opportunities for Ireland being positioned as a gateway to both the UK and Europe in the future. There are also opportunites for financial services and ecommerce firms using Ireland as their new EU base."