UK Business “Hung out to Dry” on Brexit

20.02.2019 -

As the Mar. 29 date for the UK to quit the EU approaches, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said companies have been “hung out to dry” over the consequences of a no deal Brexit.

This lack of clarity has been a barrier to growth and investment and has resulted in unnecessary costs as well as loss of business, the chamber said in publishing a list of 20 questions that it said still need to be answered.

Questions range from which trade agreements will be in place with other countries to whether and how firms can move skilled staff between the UK and EU and which regulations they will need to follow. Many of the unanswered questions “reflect fundamental aspects of how companies operate,” BCC said, noting that the terms of trade agreements can affect pricing decisions, margins, even choice of business location and the geography of supply chains.

The grouping that represents 75,000 firms from industry across the UK, employing nearly six million people, said the government has failed to give business owners the tools and information needed to deal with Brexit.

Financial advisors to businesses and auditors also have issued warnings to their clients to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. At the end of January, KPMG said many of its clients are “praying for an Article 50 extension period,” giving them more time to prepare for leaving the EU. National and international pharmaceutical industry associations in particular have warned repeatedly of the threat Brexit posts to UK drug supplies, with or without a deal.

A British newspaper columnist noted recently that, in the rush to rewrite legislation ahead of Brexit, documents called Statutory Instrument (SIs) are being placed House of Commons library; if no complaints are received within 40 days, the regulations are deemed to have been approved. One of the SIs is said to give powers to the UK Health Secretary to place a drug on a Serious Shortage Protocol if there are supply problems. This would give pharmacists the legal power to change the strength, quantity or make of any drug in short supply or to dispense a totally different drug regarded as a reasonable replacement.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has reportedly “boasted” about being the largest purchaser of new refrigerators, to store insulin and vaccines, while diabetics are concerned about secure supplies of insulin, which is not made in the UK. The Royal College of Radiologists has highlighted the risk to supplies of medical radioisotopes for diagnostic scans and cancer treatments. Asthese isotopes lose half their activity every 66 hours, they cannot be stockpiled in the case of a no deal Brexit.