After more than three years of ‘will we, won’t we?’ uncertainty, Friday 31 January marked the day that the UK officially left the EU. This is just the beginning of the real process of change, however. The rest of 2020 will see the UK ‘transition’ out of the EU and there are currently still more questions than answers about what the legal, regulatory and trading landscape will look like for UK food businesses on 1 January 2021

The Food and Drink team at Burges Salmon are already dealing with a range of issues and questions raised by clients across the supply chain. As we move into that transition period the team have set out some of the key questions that businesses should be asking themselves:

  • International trade: if you will be importing or exporting, you will need to be aware of tariff/regulatory implications of Brexit as they become clearer and may wish to consider obtaining Authorised Economic Operator status.
  • Food crime: opportunities for food crime are set to rise. Do you know where your areas of risk are? Take a look at ‘PAS 96’, the BSI’s guide to protecting and defending food and drink from deliberate attack and carry out a risk assessment to identify areas of weakness in your business.
  • Supply chain: Is your supply chain sustainable or open to disruption? Is there transparency in your supply chain: do you know who supplies your supplier? Take a look at the FDF’s guidance on mapping your chain and identifying areas of risk.
  • Packaging and labels: Have you reviewed your labels and packaging to ensure they are ‘Brexit proof’?
  • Employees: If you are reliant on European nationals for lower skilled jobs, will you use the rest of 2020 to recruit EU nationals while freedom of movement remains? Are you going to recruit non-UK nationals after 1 January 2021 under the new ‘Australian points-based’ immigration regime? If so, do you know what you need to do (e.g. becoming a sponsor)?
  • Natural resources: Consider procuring and evidencing sustainable energy and water supplies if you haven’t already.
  • Transport and distribution: How can you best employ electric vehicles and low carbon transport to assist your business?
  • Investment or exit plans?: It is never too early to begin preparation for change and getting your house in order will make the business as attractive as possible to investors and buyers alike so consider a mini 'legal audit' to avoid any nasty surprises down the line. Alternatively if you are looking to invest or set up business in the UK, our full service UK Investment Launchpad helps inward investors to fast track the UK set up process and enables them to focus their time on winning new business.
  • Financing: Keep in close touch with your relationship director at your bank. It’s possible the lending climate could change significantly if you trade with the EU, once the regulatory consequences and tariff implications of Brexit for your industry become clearer. Consider if you need to bring forward any refinancing plans or, if you are an export business, whether you need additional support for example from your bank or from UK Export Finance, which has made more cash available to support small businesses.
  • Branding: Your brand will be a key part of your business - is it protected in all the territories in which you do business, and are your registrations up-to-date to cover all the goods & services you provide? If you have an EU Trade Mark Registration, this should automatically be cloned onto the UK register, so you won’t be without protection in the UK. But action will need to be taken to clone EUTM applications to UK applications.