At time of writing, 29 March 2019, is when Britain is set to drive off the Brexit cliff with no deal agreed. However, a news story I heard this morning reminded me that many companies are already feeling the bite.
The issue is for those engaged in global shipping. I’m so used to next day delivery or perhaps having to wait a day or two that it takes a mental stretch to remember that some things could be leaving port today and not arriving until on or after 29 March. Unfortunately, it seems that the import costs depend on the arrangements when it arrives, not what was in place when it was sent. That means it comes down to guess work as to whether your goods will go through in the way you had been used to or if they are going to be hit with higher tariffs up to WTO levels.
For many businesses, that has the potential to eat dangerously far into their overheads. As a result, some are switching to air freight for the present (expensive, environmentally terrible but at least your goods arrive on the same tariff as they set out under). Others are putting a hold on shipping until a resolution is found – avoiding the risk of some costs but introducing other, longer term ones of damaging demand. Finally, apparently there are a surprising number of smaller companies who are largely ignorant of the details – they got someone in to set up shipping details and they will need to get someone in again once the matter of Brexit settles down so that they can use an expert rather than a prognosticator!
We’re not rapidly approaching the Brexit deadline; in some areas, we have already passed it. Our politicians need to pull their fingers out!