Too many local businesses remain unprepared for Brexit, shows Grant Thornton survey

With new research showing the majority of businesses have done no planning, or don’t believe they need to make plans, ahead of the March 2019 deadline for Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU), financial and business advisers Grant Thornton warns Northampton companies should not be complacent and carefully consider how their operations will be affected.

Fiona Baldwin
Fiona Baldwin

Grant Thornton’s survey of UK businesses, including a proportion across the region, found that 22% have not begun to form any kind of Brexit strategy, whilst a further 42% believe it is not even necessary. Just 10% of firms are currently developing or implementing a contingency plan.

Fiona Baldwin, practice leader at Grant Thornton’s Northampton office commented: “It’s two years since Britain voted to leave the EU and local companies are largely taking a ‘business as usual approach’, seemingly confident about their future prospects.

"However, with uncertainty over the shape of Britain’s future relationship with the EU, firms should not be complacent. Preparation is key to establish a strong position from which they can seize the opportunities and overcome any challenges in a post Brexit world."

“An important part of the planning process is forecasting for the various scenarios around access to the single market and customs union.. Businesses also need to ensure they have the right skills in place to adapt during the transition period and beyond. With our recent Northamptonshire Limited report highlighting the ongoing battle for talent, firms will need to think carefully about how they attract the right people they need to support their growth.”

Businesses were also asked about their confidence in the UK and EU agreeing an outcome that is ultimately positive for their organisation. Over a quarter (28%) expressed a degree of confidence in a positive outcome but more businesses (31%) remained unsure.

Of those businesses who have carried out some form of planning, the majority (58%) have factored in the reality of a ‘No Deal’ scenario, where the UK and EU fail to reach an agreement and the UK defaults to trading on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.

Fiona concluded: “Northamptonshire businesses have seen strong growth in recent years and however the negotiation process develops over the coming months, the EU will remain an important trading partner for many local firms. Businesses should therefore review their operations and identify where they’re potentially exposed come March 2019, whether it’s new rules and regulations or changes in export rules which could affect their supply chains.

“From our experience of working with local organisations to plan for Brexit, we know that taking a pragmatic approach can help identify areas of risk exposure and narrow uncertainty, allowing companies to focus on what really matters. Cliché as it sounds, the old adage ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ certainly rings true at the moment.”