Only a quarter of small businesses are ready for new Brexit border checks, trade body says

Only a quarter of Britain’s small importers are ready for new border controls on imports from the EU to be imposed in four weeks, a trade body has warned, raising fears of further disruption to supply chains immediately after Christmas .

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) also warned that small businesses lack the capacity to handle new documents.

From January 1, companies will no longer be able to delay import customs declarations for EU goods and will instead have to make declarations and pay the corresponding customs duties at the point of import. A notice of importation of food, beverages and animal products must also be given in advance.

An FSB survey showed that only one in four small importers was ready for the changes, while one in eight importers said they were unable to prepare for the introduction of the controls.

A third said he was not aware of the changes before the FSB study, but would be affected.

FSB National President Mike Cherry said few companies were fully prepared for the introduction of import controls from January given “the unrest of the past 18 months, concerns over the spread of Covid , and this period being the busiest of the year “.

He urged companies to refrain from stocking, however, saying there was “already a compression of warehouse space – if everyone increases storage, that compression will only tighten.”

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In recent days, the government has said companies should think about how they will submit customs declarations and pay duties. Unless the goods have a valid declaration and have been cleared through customs, they cannot be released and, in most cases, will not be able to leave the port.

Goods can be directed to an internal border facility for documentary or physical checks if such checks cannot be carried out at the border.

Meanwhile, supplier declarations will be required for the first time to export goods to the EU using tariff preferences – a reduced tariff rate granted as long as there is proof of origin.

The commodity codes used around the world to classify imported and exported goods will also change on January 1.

The FSB called on the government to further raise awareness “in a climate where many small businesses just don’t have the money or the bandwidth to handle this new bureaucracy.”

He also wants ministers to set up a new Brexit SME support fund to help companies importing and exporting with red tape and regulations.

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