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Latest research shows UK companies unprepared for upcoming EU/UK Trade changes

A recent survey conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce to 733 businesses between July and August shows that that majority of them remain unaware and unprepared for the number of EU/UK regulatory trade changes taking place in the coming weeks and months.

When asked about their knowledge on some of these key changes, the survey found:

  • 84% of manufacturers do not know about new reporting requirements on exports of goods containing high-carbon steel, and selected other products, to the EU starting in October 

  • 87% of exporters are either unaware or unprepared for new EU VAT requirements due in January 2025 

  • 43% of manufacturers are still unaware of the UK’s, now voluntary, alternative product safety marking system to the EU’s CE one 

The lack of awareness and preparation can mean that those firms trading with the EU can experience some challenges in getting their goods across due to delays and unexpected costs.

Even though not every new piece of regulation will impact all businesses, it is important to understand that many businesses will still face new difficulties.

Greater Manchester Chamber has also been surveying delegates to our training courses with many still finding trade with the EU moderately difficult.

Commenting on the research, William Bain, Head of Trade Policy at the BCC, said: “It is a serious worry that more than four out of five manufacturers who export have no knowledge of the EU’s new Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism, which begins roll out in just over three weeks' time. 

“It is just the start of a series of changes, that will gradually ratchet up over the next three years, to deter the use of cheaper but higher-carbon steel, and other goods with highly embedded climate damaging emissions, being imported into the EU. 

“This first phase covers only a limited number of iron and steel products, fertilisers, hydrogen, cement, aluminium and electricity, but any UK company which then includes any of these items in their goods, for example in nuts and screws, will now have to declare them. 

“This is a very complex set of rules, the EU’s published guidance runs to more than 200 pages. It is likely manufacturers that export will have to think about allocating dedicated staff resources just to deal with these reporting requirements. 

“So, they need to start thinking about this now, and working out what their response will be, but there are very few trusted sources of information. 

“The BCC and Chambers will be working hard to pull together as much guidance as we can to help businesses get to grips with this onslaught of changes.  

“Our research shows Government must also look again at how it communicates with firms about regulatory changes, especially given the likelihood of further divergence from EU rules in the future. 

“EU and UK policy makers also need to look at ways of simplifying a system that is over-burdensome for traders on both sides of the Channel. This could include reducing the complexity of exporting food and exempting smaller firms from the requirement to have a fiscal representative for VAT in the EU. 

“If it’s done right the further embedding of digital trade through Single Trade Windows also has the potential to make exporting and importing much simpler. And there are other practical steps that should be considered like rejoining the Pan-Euro Mediterranean convention to ease rules of origin issues.”  

Susana Córdoba, Head of International Trade at Greater Manchester Chamber, said: "We are aware that many of our members and customers still find it difficult to navigate through this new regulatory guidance from both the UK and EU, and SMEs will particularly struggle with understanding the new set of changes, but also in their capacity to implement robust processes and systems to remain compliant with these.

"It is important government works closely with organisations like ours to help raising awareness on these and also support traders getting ready.

"We also urge traders to be as proactive as they can to seek guidance and support, and at the Chamber, we are definitely ready to help members and customers to adapt through these changes. Our expert customs team and network of expert associates are at hand to help you to keep on trading."

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