The Final Countdown
In less than 23 days and counting, the Eu and the UK face the most important change in trade rules since the foundation of the European Single Market in 1993.
The interesting thing is that this change will happen whether or not a final deal is agreed.
The ‘least-worst worst scenario’ is now two day delays in getting freight across the English Channel and queues of 7,000 lorries in parts of the south coast.
Its hard to believe that everything now hinges on fishing rights, with the UK reluctant to impinge upon the sovereignty of the fish in UK waters and EU leaders unwilling to lose a enormous portion of the fish landed in the EU and the political consequences that will follow, particularly n France and Spain.
In the middle of a pandemic which is quickly eroding the global economy, finding ways to mitigate the disruption of Brexit is vital to limiting economic damage and to making a long-term success of Brexit.
Since Britain will leave the EU customs union and single market whether it strikes a trade agreement or not, the end of the Brexit transition period will in many ways turn back the clock, overnight, to 1992.
Since then, however, commercial Channel crossings have grown from one million per year to about three and a half million. The bodies in Kent managing customs arrangements have decreased from about 200 to 17. An estimated 275 million new customs declarations will need filling in annually post-Brexit, costing about £15 billion.
The situation is wholly different, and the systems of global trade, shipping, business and manufacturing are unrecognisable from what they looked like when Czechoslovakia still existed.
In Ireland, the Government are ramping up their messaging about preparedness in the business community and a new ferry route from Rosslare to Dunkirk has been announced.
Some big exporters and multinationals know what is involved, but the situation among SMEs is very different. It is extremely hard for businesses to prepare for something when they don’t know what it is they are supposed to be preparing for.
Deal or no deal, maximum flexibility will be required from governments, tax and customs authorities on all sides. Trust, co-operation and communication between Government and business will be crucial in the days, months and years ahead.