Research by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has found that just 38% of businesses have completed a Brexit risk assessment this year, compared to 57% in 2019 and 35% in 2018.

The study also found that more than half (51%) of the businesses surveyed hadn’t taken any of the eight steps recommended by the UK government to prepare for changes in the movement of goods between the UK and EU. This includes fundamentals of operation for trading businesses, such as checking on the need for customs declarations, as well as assessing the possible impact of changes on existing customers and suppliers.

The BCC also published an update of its Brexit guidance dashboard, which contains 35 questions most frequently raised by businesses, many of which apply in a deal or no deal scenario. Currently, 26 of the key questions remain unanswered with less than 100 days to go until the end of the Brexit transition period on 1 January 2021, explained the BCC.

Many of the unanswered questions reflect fundamental aspects of how businesses operate, such as:

  • firms do not know what rules of origin will apply after the transition period, preventing them and their customers from planning and potentially creating unprecedented new administration and costs;
  • there is no clarity on how food and drink due to be sold in the EU and Northern Ireland is to be labelled;
  • very limited guidance on the movement of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland;
  • and no information on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, key to ‘levelling up’ the regions and nations – despite years of calls for clarity.”

The BCC suggests that UK business preparation for the coming changes is low due to the unprecedented challenges facing them. Director general Adam Marshall commented: “With just 98 days to go, business communities face the triple threat of a resurgent coronavirus, receding government support schemes, and a disorderly end to the transition period.

“Significant unanswered questions remain for businesses, and despite recent public information campaigns, base levels of preparedness are low. Many firms say they’ve heard talk of deadlines and cliff edges before, and others are still grappling with fundamental challenges as a result of the pandemic and have little cash or information with which to plan.

“While we recognise that some of the questions facing businesses are subject to ongoing negotiations between the government and the EU, other matters are within the UK’s own hands. The government must ramp up engagement with business urgently – to the levels seen prior to previous ‘no deal’ deadlines – to ensure that the real-world issues facing firms get tackled immediately.

“The ‘Check, Change, Go’ campaign gives the impression that Brexit-related changes are like getting an MOT – whereas the reality is that for many businesses, they’re more akin to planning a moon landing. Businesses need honest communication about the complexity of the changes they face – and stronger encouragement to act.”