Many small businesses are unprepared for the EU import deadline for new rules which come into effect on 1 January 2022, according to research from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
At present, full customs declarations for EU goods can be deferred at the point of arrival. From 1 January however, paperwork will need to be handled immediately, while notice of food, drink and products of animal origin must be given in advance.
According to the FSB, only one in four (25%) of small importers who will be affected by the new rules are even aware of them. One in eight (16%) of the importers surveyed said they are unable to prepare for the introduction of checks, and a third (33%) said they were unaware of their introduction prior to the FSB study, but will be affected by them.
According to FSB National Chairman, Mike Cherry, “Given the turmoil of the past 18 months, new concerns about the spread of COVID, and this being the busiest time of year for many, it’s understandable that few firms are fully prepared for the introduction of import controls from January.
“What we’re saying to firms is: there’s still time to act. Speak to suppliers to ensure you have all you need to make declarations, consider alternative providers if that looks like an efficient way forward, and think about different transportation routes.”
The warning comes as the UK faces staff shortages across a host of sectors due to the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant. These are likely to have a knock-on effect on the availability of certain goods in shops in the run-up to Christmas.
“Stockpiling will naturally be a temptation for those fortunate enough to have the funds for it, but there is already a squeeze on warehousing space – if everyone ramps up storage, that squeeze will only tighten,” said Cherry.
On 15 December it was announced that the introduction of the new import rules for goods entering the UK from Ireland would be postponed until some time after the 1 January deadline as an ‘act of good faith’.