The vagueness surrounding the British withdrawal from the European Union complicates the preparations of companies on both sides of the Channel.
Gary Haworth and Nicolas Jean-Jean met twenty years ago on a lawn in Lyon. The Englishman worked for Black & Decker. The Frenchman excelled in hockey. They became friends teasing lacrosse and have since continued to cross the English Channel. For professional reasons but also for loyalty: the English married a French, the French a British. Fathers, businessmen, expatriates, neither of them wanted Brexit. Yet they have been preparing for months, in the most complete blur.
Because, if the date of the divorce approaches, its modalities remain one can not be more vague. With or without agreement, Boris Johnson's government seems determined to set sail on October 31st. French side, we prepare the spirits at worst. Of the 100,000 tricolor companies that regularly trade with the United Kingdom, 20,000 have recently been contacted by Bercy. A symposium on technical aspects, such as customs clearance and the circulation of data, was organized on Thursday, 26 September, at the Medef headquarters in Paris.
In England too, "There are meetings almost every week, Nicolas Jean-Jean observes. Only those that I attended in the chambers of commerce always ended in the same way: for the most important points, nobody is aware of anything ". Avery, the company specializing in label printing, which runs West European activities from around London, imports nearly 80% of its raw materials from the continent. It is sending back part of its finished products, for an annual turnover of about 50 million euros.
How do you want to plan a business?
"After the referendum in 2016, there has been a lot of damage to the pound sterling, recalls the director. The shortfall, over half a year, was around 300,000 euros … " Contracts have been renegotiated, margins stabilized, but uncertainty has increased.
In anticipation of a Brexit, on March 29, the Avery plant near Northampton accumulated mountains of stocks. He had to be ready to ship them to a company site in Germany. "The hardest thing was to harmonize IT systems between our two factories, recalls Mr. Jean-Jean. This has been a big cost in terms of development and overtime ". Cash flow has paid for it. For nothing, since the withdrawal was finally postponed.