Firms ‘shouldn’t bet on Brexit deal being agreed’

Ulster Society  chair Niall Harkin
Ulster Society chair Niall Harkin

Leading voices in the business sector have warned firms in the province and the Irish Republic not to be complacent that a Brexit deal will be agreed.

Chartered Accountants Ireland said there is “no hard evidence” MPs in Westminster will back Theresa May’s Brexit deal at the crucial vote next week.

In a joint statement, the chairs of the Chartered Accountants Ulster Society and the Chartered Accountants Ireland London Society have advised businesses to prepare for a no-deal and for the reintroduction of tariffs and quotas on imports and exports between the UK and the EU from the end of March.

The bodies say they have concerns about the readiness of the SME sector to handle the challenges that throws up.

“Generally, aside from the agri-business sectors, it is not the amount of customs duties to be reintroduced that will pose problems for businesses in the UK and Northern Ireland in particular,” said Ulster Society chair Niall Harkin.

“Rather, it is the disruption which will be caused by customs checking at the borders with the EU and the increased administration that this will bring.

“Furthermore, many businesses will encounter a new up-front VAT charge on imported goods which will impact on cash flow.”

London Society chair Gerry Nicholas said chartered accountants will be dealing with any new trading obligations post-Brexit.

“We must ensure that businesses will meet any new legal requirements that emerge,” he said.

“We are recommending that, as a minimum first step, cross-border trading businesses ensure that their business has applied for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number required to continue to trade within the EU after March 29.”

The UK Government has released a guide on how to prepare for changes at the UK border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

It addresses future cross-border trading activity and highlights steps which can be taken to prepare for Brexit.

Chartered Accountants Ireland said it has also prepared a written guide on how customs operate and is designed for traders who are dealing with customs for the first time.

It said there are “definitive reports” of firm’s relocating from the UK to Ireland and urged these businesses to continue with contingency plans.