Trevor Hoyle, senior vice president Northern Europe operations FedEx Express, talks about preparing businesses for Brexit, whether it’s Deal or No Deal.
There is an old saying that a week is a long time in politics. Well, the last few months have felt like a lifetime.
It was not long ago, back in March, that we were all glued to our phones waiting for European leaders to decide whether to grant the UK its first extension on the Brexit deadline. So too were UK leaders as they struggled to reach agreement among themselves on how to proceed.
Fast-forward to August and we’ve had further Brexit extensions granted, a Conservative Party leadership race, a new Prime Minister and a government that has put the No Deal option firmly on the table.
Politics can always surprise, but the air feels heavier now. A No Deal outcome seems to be a more likely possibility than at any time since the negotiations started.
The new Prime Minister has set up a ‘War Cabinet’, meeting every Monday with the sole objective of delivering Brexit by 31 October by any means necessary.
A national government-run campaign to prepare businesses is in the works.
Extra funding has been pledged to support those industries most impacted in the event of a No Deal.
Even the Confederation of British Industry, which has repeatedly voiced concerns about No Deal, is now talking more openly about its own guidance for companies preparing for this outcome.
The time for disagreement and discussion on the issue of Brexit is now over. Whatever one’s views, it is vital that we all pull together to get the business community ready for a potentially significant change in the trading environment.
At FedEx Express, we have been preparing for the broad spectrum of potential Brexit scenarios over the last two years. Across all areas, we have invested in the required capability, capacity and flexibility to continue delivering outstanding service to our customers and support for our team members.
These preparations are based on decades of experience facilitating cross-border trade in often complex and evolving trading environments. They are also informed by our unique clearance capabilities. FedEx Express is one of the largest customs brokers in the world, with almost 2,500 full time team members working on customs clearance procedures in Europe alone.
However, the ability to operate seamlessly after Brexit relies on a complex network of organisations responsible for the frictionless flow of goods between the UK and EU.
And it starts with trading businesses and their own readiness for maximal change.
That is why all of us involved in this complex network need to identify how we can help and stay laser-focused on getting our businesses through this period – and indeed helping them embrace new opportunities beyond Brexit.
In the past year, for example, FedEx has hosted webinars, workshops and provided a dedicated support team to companies concerned about shipping beyond Brexit.
FedEx customer or not, we have opened up our expertise on customs and cross-border trade. Trade is our business and we are playing our part.
Our suite of publicly available materials on Brexit has also covered everything from basic checklists to guidance around commercial invoicing, EORI numbers and other important technical areas.
We do not intend to slow down. The next wave of our Brexit preparedness campaign is launching soon, focused on practical exporting guidance for SMEs.
Over the last two years, I have had the opportunity to meet with many political representatives here in the UK and mainland Europe, as well as business advocacy groups and the major port, customs and border authorities.
What is clear is that everyone wants to make this work.
Everyone wants to see our businesses continue to trade seamlessly across borders with minimal disruption so they can continue to grow beyond Brexit.
There is still a lot we can do to support this effort. Now is the time to re-double our efforts, pull together and get our companies and communities ready for whatever the future holds.