Few traders “prepared” for introduction of full customs checks

November 24, 2021

Few business owners are fully prepared for the introduction of full customs checks, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), comes ahead of new export and import controls coming into force from the start of next year.

According to the report, just one in five (21 per cent) traders are “fully prepared” for the introduction of new customs checks on 1 January 2022.

The new rules include the requirement for pre-notification of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) goods, new requirements for Export Health Certificates (from 1 July 2022), Phytosanitary Certificates and physical checks on SPS goods at Border Control Posts (from 1 July 2022), and Safety and Security declarations on imports (from 1 July 2022).

To make things worse, four in 10 (41 per cent) exporters have also reported reduced international sales – up 10 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, while two in 10 (21 per cent) have “temporarily or permanently stopped exporting to the EU” – up seven per cent.

Commenting on the figures, FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Too many small exporters – often our most innovative and profitable firms – are struggling to get across new paperwork and preparations for import checks.

“As such, policymakers should revamp and relaunch the SME Brexit Support Fund, widening the eligibility criteria, and making deadlines for applications more realistic.”

The findings form part of the FSB’s quarterly Small Business Index (SBI), which provides an overview of business performance for the three months to September 2021.

On top of being ill-prepared for the new customs controls, the index shows that one in seven (14 per cent) employers have reduced staff numbers in the third quarter, while the “vast majority” (82 per cent) have no intention of recruiting ahead of the festive period.

Small business finance has also taken a blow, with applications hitting a “six-year low”.

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