5 things that Flemish businesses are worried about in times of Brexit

… by Sophie Beyers, International Network Coordinator at VOKA (Kamer van Koophandel Antwerpen-Waasland) and advice on what to do about it from Raimond Nicodem, Brexit specialist and corporate advisor.

Customer and supplier relationships – what are the Brits thinking? Is it going to be difficult to maintain happy, healthy business relationships with my British partners and customers?

Most people and businesses are not prepared for the immediate effects of Brexit, such as product flows being hampered and higher prices on products and services. You might see a shock effect on the side of your British customers and supplier relations. As long as you remain polite and offer a helping hand, we don’t expect your business relationships to suffer.

Staff – what will the status be of Belgian employees working in the UK? And of my British employees here?

Most EU countries, including Belgium, have agreed to be tolerant of UK nationals living in the EU. And vice versa for EU citizens living in the UK. Travel back and forth to the UK will likely be more cumbersome. Passport controls have been in place since the UK joined the EU, so that will not differ, however, do expect new visa requirements to be announced.

Pound sterling – what’s the most likely impact on the pound-euro exchange rate? How do I mitigate those risks?

Currency in GBP is constantly devaluing and might be hit even harder by a No-Deal Brexit. The best way to avoid currency risk is to trade in Euros, and not in Pounds. Otherwise, you might want to hedge to mitigate the influence of the GBP/EUR fluctuations. Be aware that your products, goods or services might be getting more expensive in the UK.

Customs – what will happen in a no-deal scenario? Will WTO rules apply? What tariffs might I have to pay?

Following a No-Deal exit, it will be a big problem for the UK to enter the WTO. WTO rules will not be able to be applied by the UK from Day 1. And WTO “default tariffs” do not exist.

Please be aware of the fact that VAT might be collected at the borders if you do not have the right EORI numbers and tax arrangements. This can result in cash flow issues if you are not careful.

Logistics – should you outsource to a logistics provider? Are there alternatives?

There’s no avoiding the traffic jams that will take place as soon as the UK leaves the EU. Try to bypass border traffic by using smart alternatives like the Rosyth – Eemshaven connection. Make sure you look again at the contracts you have with any logistics providers.