The UK’s future international trade may be somewhat opaque at the moment due to the Brexit impasse. However, it has been recognised time and time again that disruption and uncertainty may not be quite as counterproductive for the business leaders who are prepared to force the issue and forge new connections and strengthen the old.  Economic stability is something that all businesses crave but the truth is that there is always disruption caused by external sources such as economic slowdowns, unexpected changes to tax or tariffs or movement on the political landscape and of course the spectre of global recession.  The current situation provides an opportunity to revisit trade agreements and scrutinise and update existing commercial contracts, with proper strategies to make your business more appealing to trade partners you will be ready to get to the front of the competition.

Now may be the best time to conduct a whole firm review as well as new commercial contract negotiations before the eventual outcome is known as it may be possible to gain the edge ahead of what will be a scramble to secure trade agreements once the metaphorical Brexit hammer falls.  With the focus so firmly directed to trade deals, things may slip through the net, such as intellectual property protection.  If your intellectual property (IP)is protected by EU Intellectual Property Office you will need to make other arrangements after Brexit.  The UK government has issued guidance for businesses regarding the ways that the trademarks, currently protected under Europe, can continue to be protected.  An equivalent UK Intellectual Property Office will be created, however, there are few details about how this will be managed.  The UK government will still work closely with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to provide IP protection through the Madrid system which provides a central registration which protects IP in several jurisdictions under one registration.  Other types of IP will be similarly protected.

Ascertaining the status of any overseas staff, especially long term staff, is vital; no business wants to find that one of their “key men” who has lived in the UK since a child, has never obtained the proper status to live in the UK.   As we have seen with the Windrush scandal it is easy to overlook regularising your status or assume that parents must have done so.

If you are involved with import/export obtaining Authorised Economic Operator status (AEO) will help you jump the queues at the ports. AEO is internationally recognised and businesses that have this status enjoy access to a smoother simplified customs procedure as well as speedier progress through customs.  Another benefit is that your business will be seen as a preferred supplier if you are involved in a tender process.  

The more steps taken to strengthen your business and make it more attractive to potential trade partners the more likely it will be that your business will be able to weather the Brexit storm and come out stronger.  Brexit will force companies to look for other markets and make their business model more competitive and in doing so it is likely that they will attract business that would not have come their way in the past.  A confident positive outlook will carry your business forward.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.