Treasury  Minister Lord Agnew has ruffled a few feathers this week by suggesting that businesses are taking a "head in the sand approach" to post-Brexit trade.  This has gone down like a lead balloon among many, not least because the failure of the UK and EU negotiators to reach agreement on a trade deal has made it far from easy for businesses on both sides of the Channel to plan ahead.

However, with less than 3 months to go until the transition period comes to an end, it is a good time for food and drink businesses to take stock and make sure that everything that can be done has been done to prepare.  Here are some key issues to consider while there is still some time left:

1) An Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number will be required to move goods into or out of the EU.  Have you obtained/applied for registration?      

2) Do you know what tariffs could be applied to goods coming into or out of your business if no trade deal is reached with the EU?  Even if a deal is agreed, there may still be tariffs to pay on items moving between the UK and the rest of the world that are currently subject to EU-negotiated tariffs.  Do you know what your worse case scenario is if the UK falls back on WTO tariffs?   

3) Have you considered employing a customs agent to deal with the increased levels of customs documents for cross-border movement of goods?

4) Have you carried out a thorough review of your labels?  Labels will need to include a UK business address for goods sold in the UK (except Northern Ireland) and an EU or NI business address for goods sold in those areas.  Other changes will come into effect, including a prohibition on the use of the EU organics logo and changes to country of origin labelling requirements.  

5) Have you checked the robustness of your supply chain and do you know how you will mange things if significant delays occur at border crossings?

6) Have you reviewed your contractual terms and checked what the impact of Brexit will be on your duties and obligations?  Think about how you will deal with your obligations and enforce your rights in the event that you or your counter-party cannot comply with contractual terms.

7) If you are employing EU citizens in your business, check that they have registered for settled status or are otherwise authorised to continue with their employment.   

8) Have you lined up appropriate finance to ensure you have support in place in the event of delays and difficulties in the first half of 2021?

9) Have you reviewed your website and data systems to ensure your business will remain compliant with GDPR and other tech-related rules from 1 January 2021?

10) Have you reviewed your insurance cover and provisions to ensure that your business will be appropriately protected from 1 January 2021?

If businesses carry out these important checks and reviews now they will have a much better chance of getting off to a flying start in January 2021 (unlike the ostriches, who will have to stay firmly on the ground).