Brexit: your suppliers and customers

Parcels are being exported to the EU following Brexit

Whatever your business, you need to look at the implications of Brexit for your suppliers and customers. Even if you aren’t directly involved in trading with the EU, you are likely to be affected.

Your suppliers

If you purchase from EU-based suppliers, Brexit might well affect the reliability and speed of deliveries you can expect. As well as delays caused by new customs checks, freight supplies coming across the Channel may well be vulnerable to delays if ports and roads become congested. Perishable supplies could be at particular risk.

If you import from the EU, make sure you – and any freight forwarders or agents you use – understand the legal issues and import procedures. You can find out more from the government guidance for importers from the EU.

Bear in mind that special rules apply for trading with Northern Ireland.

Even if you only purchase from suppliers in the UK, those suppliers in turn rely on other suppliers, who themselves have their own suppliers. At some point, this extended supply chain may well involve imports from the EU. If Brexit affects them, it could have a knock-on effect on the supplies you are buying.

For a small business, it may not be practical to trace all the details of your supply chains. But you should be looking at your most important supplies and suppliers.

  • How large a proportion of your costs do these represent?
  • Are any of these supplies in sensitive sectors, such as agricultural goods, where new tariffs or import controls might be applied?
  • Are any supplies perishable?
  • Do you need to increase stocks of supplies to ensure supply continuity in case of disruption?
  • How well do your supply contracts protect you if delayed or failed supplies cause you losses?
  • Do you need to find alternative suppliers – either to replace existing suppliers or as protection in case of problems?

Work with your suppliers to anticipate potential problems and work round them. Take a collaborative approach and build in as much flexibility as possible.

Your customers

If you sell directly to customers in the EU, you’ll need to be sure you understand the legal issues for exporters. For example, you may need to take steps to ensure that your intellectual property is adequately protected.

You need to be able to deal with export declarations, customs procedures, VAT and so on. Find out more in the government guidance for exporting to the EU.

It makes sense to think about the possible impact of Brexit on your most important customers, and also on the competition you face. A SWOT analysis can be a good way of understanding the main opportunities and threats.

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