BOSS Brexit bulletin

Welcome to the October 2020 BOSS Brexit bulletin. There are now less than 50 working days to go…

For all Brexit queries, in the first instance use the government’s checker tool at gov.uk/transition. This allows you to enter details about your business to receive tailored advice on what steps you need to take. If you’re still looking for answers, contact Amy at [email protected] or Carys on [email protected].

Please note, you can add colleagues to our mailing list by logging into the members’ area of the BOSS website or contacting [email protected].

In this month’s Bulletin:

  • Brexit update
  • Summary of CBI/Cabinet Office transition webinar
  • Hiring customs help
  • Points based system in practice
  • Important info for hauliers
  • Letter from HMRC
  • Latest publications

1. Brexit update

EU/UK negotiations were extended this month as tensions continued to rise. In London, a virtual roundtable was held between Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and business leaders, with the Prime Minister’s messaging reportedly being received “like a bucket of cold sick”, according to one participant. Treasury and Cabinet Office Minister Lord Agnew saying traders “really must engage in a more energetic way” to be ready for January 1 probably didn’t help.

More trouble for the PM looms on the horizon, with the Internal Market Bill due to be voted on in the House of Lords on November 9. Peers are expected to throw out six clauses from the Bill, and Joe Biden has warned that if he wins the US election, there’ll be no prospect of a UK/US trade deal if the clauses remain.  

In more optimistic news for the government, reports from the last few days have suggested that the two sides have begun work on the text of an agreement on the level playing field, and are close to finalising a joint document covering state aid. Talks headed over to Brussels yesterday (Thursday 29 October) where the hope is that negotiators can narrow their remaining differences enough by November 3 for the buck to pass to Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to broker a final compromise.

In definite good news for the government, the UK/Japan trade deal has formally been signed (despite the Department for International Trade being a little confused about what it’ll mean for the cost of your soy sauce).

2. Summary of CBI/Cabinet Office Webinar

On October 21, the CBI held a webinar with Jess Glover, Director-General of the Transition Taskforce at the Cabinet Office. She noted that there is concern in government that the majority of preparations that businesses need to make – aside from tariff arrangements – are relevant regardless of the outcome of negotiations, yet that this was not well understood by the public.

She stressed that the risk of 40-70% of trucks travelling to the EU not being ready for border controls – leading to 1.5-2 days of delay – was a ‘reasonable worst case scenario’. She pointed to a new ‘Check an HGV’ app (more below) due to be released in December, aimed at hauliers and intended to simplify the system. She mentioned that her personal view was that any disruption will reduce over time, as people learn the new rules and paperwork required.  

Also on the webinar was Sally Jones, a partner at EY. She said that in a recent survey run by EY, over 70% of respondents said their Brexit preparations have been significantly disrupted by COVID-19.    

3. Hiring a Customs Help

We’ve flagged this a few times before, but it’s worth saying again as the clock ticks on – you can hire someone to deal with customs declarations for you. They might be freight forwarders, customs agents or brokers or fast parcel operators.

What’s the difference?

Freight forwarders move goods around the world for importers. A freight forwarder will arrange clearing your goods through customs. They’ll have the right software to communicate with HMRC’s systems. 

4. Points Based System in Practice

We’ve recently brought you information on the Points Based System for skilled workers that will come into place for immigration from January.

For employers, it’s important to know that you’ll need to pay an Immigration Skills Charge (ISC), if you employ a skilled migrant worker from either the EU or the rest of the world. The ISC is £1,000 per skilled worker for the first 12 months, with an additional £500 charge for each subsequent six-month period. Discounted rates will apply to charities and small business.

People applying to come to work in the UK must meet a specific set of requirements, with each requirement awarding a certain number of points. 70 points in total must be reached.

Some requirements are mandatory. These include the offer of a job from a sponsor (20 points) a job offer at an appropriate skill level (20 points) and being able to speak some English (10 points). The job offer must meet the applicable minimum salary threshold. This is the higher of either the general salary threshold of £25,600, or the specific salary requirement for their occupation, known as the ‘going rate’.

The other 20 points can be made up in a variety of ways, including:

  • Qualifications
  • If the job is in a shortage occupation
  • If the applicant is a new entrant
  • If they’re applying for specific health or education jobs

5. Important Info for Hauliers

On the 22 October, government announced a series of measures designed to help keep trade flowing by minimising the risk of disruption from January 1. This has been accompanied by a new radio, press and online information campaign to inform hauliers.

Legislation to enable the enforcement of Operation Brock – the traffic management strategy in Kent – has been brought forward to ensure the plans can be implemented if needed. The move will help to reduce the risk of disruption as hauliers travel through Kent to reach the Short Straits – one of Britain’s busiest trade routes.

The new rules confirm that it will be mandatory for all heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) using the Short Straits channel crossings to obtain a digital Kent Access Permit (aka a ‘KAP’ or a ‘Kermit’ – see last month’s Bulletin for more), following completion of the Government’s new easy-to-use ‘Check an HGV’ service. The aim is to ensure that HGV drivers who come prepared can move smoothly through Kent to the UK’s trading ports. There will be fines of up to £300 for those travelling via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel who haven’t used the service, or who’ve provided a fraudulent declaration.

Alongside this, a haulier handbook will be made available in 14 different languages, intended as a one-stop-shop for UK and EU hauliers, providing them with key information and advice. In November, hauliers will also be able to visit one of 45 ‘Information and Advice Sites’ at key strategic locations across the UK, offering in-person assistance on how to apply for the documents needed to keep them travelling to, from and through the EU.

6. Letter from HMRC

All VAT-registered business should have received a letter from HMRC this month. The letter is about import and export declarations you’ll need to make, if relevant to you. It doesn’t offer any further information over and above the ‘Check, Change, Go’ tool, but if you missed it (and can’t resist a letter from HMRC) you can read it here.

7. Latest Publications

You can read the latest Brexit publications by clicking the button here.

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