In the UK, companies face the Brexit wall

Customs declarations, data retention, compliance with banking rules … Whether an exit from the Union takes place or not, SMEs and large groups are making a lot of preparations.

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An NX Group warehouse offering storage services to UK companies on January 7, 2019 in Crick, UK.
An NX Group warehouse offering storage services to UK companies on January 7, 2019 in Crick, UK. OLI SCARFF / AFP

Brexit will take place / will not take place / October 31st / at another date (delete as appropriate). The political fog remains as intense as a new "crucial" EU summit is scheduled to take place on Thursday 17 and Friday 18 October. But whatever its outcome, the consequences for the economy and the life of the companies are real. Even if the Brexit is finally postponed or even canceled (which remains unlikely), it is impossible for a multinational as for an SME to completely ignore the possible repercussions of leaving the European Union (EU).

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The strangeness of Brexit is that it affects absolutely all areas, while being rarely at the center of business activity. For a bank, low interest rates are much higher than the exit of the EU; for a car manufacturer, the diesel crisis presents a major challenge. All must, however, prepare for the effects of the exit of the EU, which impacts their regulatory environment, their supply chain … We do not deticote forty-five years of common legislation without some difficulties.

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In this uncertainty, British SMEs have largely chosen to wait. Only 21% of those who believe that Brexit will have a negative impact (79% of them) have made preparations, according to the Federation of Small Businesses. On the other hand, large companies have launched many projects, multinationals all having teams that have been working on the subject for three years. Between lassitude and exasperation, review of their main works.

Warehouses are overflowing with stocks

In case of a Brexit without agreement, the big fear is to see a huge congestion of borders, blocking the passage of goods. This will not happen from the first day: the 1stst November, All Saints Day, is a holiday in France, and several British car factories have decided to close their doors at the beginning of November, to avoid a possible chaos. But, progressively, trucks may arrive at the border without the necessary customs forms. Delays could build up to cause a monster traffic jam.

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To prepare, many companies make stocks. They are now more than 11 billion pounds (12.52 billion euros) average, almost 10% more than normal, according to the calculations of the Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), a consulting firm. Never seen, even during the bug of the year 2000, or the financial crisis of 2008.


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