In recent days the Government published new Brexit proposals that seek to replace the current version of the Irish backstop. The plan would see Northern Ireland leaving the EU's customs union along with the rest of Great Britain but staying in the bloc's single market for goods. Northern Ireland’s Assembly would have a vote every four years on whether to maintain the arrangements.
The government says the plans would preclude the need for a hard border on the island of Ireland, arguing the majority of customs issues could be addressed electronically and a small number of customs checks could be carried out away from the border.
Meanwhile, the EU has responded saying some points are problematic, including around governance and customs. Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier remarked over the weekend: “If [the UK’s proposals] do not change I do not believe, on the basis of the mandate I have been given by the EU27, that we can advance”.
What does this mean for the business community? The uncertainty at the political level persists, but planning should still be on the basis of a no-deal outcome. The IoD is supporting UK businesses in their preparations for the event. We meet regularly with Whitehall departments such as HMRC, DIT and BEIS to explain the concerns of our members, including identifying the areas in which guidance from government is lacking, such as no-deal tariffs and trading arrangements in Northern Ireland.
It is of course worth also keeping an eye on services provided by the government which also aim to help your business at this time. In the last few days, HMRC has launched a grant scheme that allows businesses to apply for funding to go towards hiring customs intermediaries. Note that you can also apply for the two existing grant schemes on customs training and IT upgrades.
Registration is now open for the IoD's forthcoming no-deal planning workshops and webinars. On Wednesday 9 October we will gather experts to discuss the steps businesses in the services sectors should consider in planning for Brexit, while Thursday 17 October will see a workshop focusing on advice for those trading in goods. Importantly, the Q&A session at the end lets you submit your specific questions to our panellists. The workshops are at 116 Pall Mall, free of charge to attend and open to both members and non-members.
You can now also register for the first of our no-deal Brexit webinars, The Big Brexit Update on Friday 11 October. Our resident 'Brexperts' will provide an update on the latest political developments as well as explain the important trading and regulatory changes your business can expect. There is also an opportunity for you to send in your own questions before the webinar and live on the day. Stay tuned to our Hub for details of further workshops and webinars taking place over the next few weeks.
If you haven’t already seen them, take a look at our Brexit Jargon Buster
and Brexit Checklist
of 20 questions you should consider when planning for your firm.