In the last of a three-part series, DAVID NOWELL and TOM EARNSHAW look at how Lancashire businesses are preparing for leaving the EU.
Lancashire businesses who fail to prepare for Brexit do so at their peril.
That is the warning from business chiefs as a worrying lack of preparedness among small businesses for a no-deal Brexit was revealed.
A new survey has shown many firms in Lancashire and across the UK do not even feel able to plan beyond October 31 given all the uncertainty.
The Lancashire-based Federation of Small Businesses research shows that among those small firms that believe a no-deal scenario will negatively impact them, only one in five have planned or prepared for anticipated issues.
Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) don’t think they are able to plan.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce has announced a series of seminars and workshops to prepare small firms for life after October 31.
The FSB survey says preparations for a no-deal Brexit have come at a high price, with the average cost for these businesses that have prepared, coming in at around £2,000.
That average cost rises to £3,000 for smaller businesses that export and import.
FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “As the risk of a chaotic no-deal Brexit on October 31 remains alive and kicking, it is worrying that many small firms have either not prepared or are finding that they can’t prepare.
“Ongoing uncertainty is to blame for preparations hitting the skids with the picture still not clear as to how the UK will leave the EU on 31 October. Until we get clarity, small firms must prepare for the cliff edge where possible, and make preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
“Preparing for this outcome is coming at a high price though with small firms being hit by an unstable pound and having to shell out money on a potential outcome that has been highly disruptive, remains uncertain and is unwanted.
“Government must use what little time is left before October 31 to provide small firms with the support they need to navigate the unchartered and turbulent waters of a no-deal Brexit.”
Just under one third (31 per cent) of prepared small businesses have stockpiled ahead of October 31, while 34 per cent report temporarily or permanently reduced profitability.
Just under half (46 per cent) of these firms, along with those that plan to prepare for no-deal over the next few weeks, think that the volatility in Sterling has negatively impacted their business.
Almost half (46 per cent) of small businesses, that believe they will be negatively impacted by a no-deal scenario, would welcome some form of financial support.
Mr Cherry renewed calls for the provision of financial assistance such as vouchers worth up to £3,000 to assist with preparing for a potential no-deal scenario, including supporting small firms in reaching new global markets.
He also called for wide-reaching measures in an early budget to boost small business cash flow.
Meanwhile a new free service has been launched across Lancashire to help businesses prepare for the UK’s planned EU departure on October 31.
The Government-funded Help for Brexit service is being run by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce and aims to help businesses understand the steps they need to take to be ready for Brexit.
The support includes free-to-attend seminars, workshops, training courses and webinars, as well as expert information and access to a wealth of specialist advisers. It covers areas such as cross-border regulations, people, skills, tax, insurance, accounting and finance.
Around 20 events will take place during the month of October at venues in Preston, Blackpool and Leyland.
The support will be delivered by business and international trade experts.
Help for Brexit is funded by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Brexit Readiness Fund.
The £10m Government fund has been allocated to business support organisations across the UK.
Babs Murphy, chief executive of the Chamber said: “The UK’s impending departure from the European Union on 31st October will affect businesses of every size and sector.
“From cross border trade, people, skills and immigration to regulatory compliance, accounting, taxation and insurance, there will be fundamental changes to the way we do business.
“Yes of course some companies are already planning for the challenges and opportunities ahead. However a substantial number are not.
“All firms, not just those directly and immediately affected, should be undertaking preparation in the event of a no deal exit.
“The Chamber is doing its bit to prepare our local business community with the launch of a brand-new free ‘Help for Brexit’ service. Help for Brexit will deliver a programme of activities including webinars, seminars, workshops, training courses and business clinics to assist businesses through the transition period.
“The programme will be useful as a basis for business planning at both operational and board level and would urge all businesses to prepare of each Brexit scenario. And if indeed there is a no deal Brexit, businesses have little time to implement the significant changes expected.
The Help for Brexit service is free to all businesses operating in Preston, Wyre, Fylde, Blackpool, Lancaster, Chorley, South Ribble and West Lancashire.
For full details of the Help for Brexit programme, go to www.helpforbrexit.co.uk
One of Preston’s largest employers, the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), has revealed it is “regularly” speaking with its European partners to understand how Brexit will impact its day-to-day operations.
As part of this, UCLan, which had 3,040 international students in 2017/18, is speaking to prospective students from the EU about how future immigration plans may change with both a Deal and No Deal scenario.
It has also admitted that research and funding will be affected – but that work is taking place to make any transition “as smooth as possible”.
“The University is speaking with its European partners regularly to share understanding of the impact of Brexit together with a no-deal scenario and collaboratively planning for such an outcome,” UCLan’s Institutional lead, Dr Lynne Livesey, explained.
“At the same time we are communicating with EU prospective students and staff with regards to future plans for immigration, support offered through the University and what this would mean for these groups in practice.
“It is likely that research and student mobility funding streams will be affected, although there is a lot of work going in behind the scenes to make the transition as smooth as possible in terms of funded academic collaboration.
“There are a number of additional issues we are currently considering and these include questions around procurement, commercial contracts, travel arrangements between the UK and EU as well as travel and health insurance for both students and staff.”