UK / EU – Optimising Trade in Changing Times

International business necessitates additional work. While this is inescapable, it can be mitigated by using the appropriate tools. With the UK set to change its relationship with the EU, there has never been a better time to review current practices, make efficiencies and adopt technology to reduce repetitive data entry and reduce the opportunity for human error, which can lead to costly delays, and reduce confidence of suppliers and customers.
Brexit has caused UK and international businesses to assess their trade and customs obligations in a new light. As a leading provider of technology provided exclusively to internationally trading businesses, SGS i2i Infinity has seen a dramatic uplift in the number of enquiries and orders for its industry leading software, particularly in the second half of 2019. This is true of both individual importers and exporters, and intermediaries looking to enhance their offering to clients.

Having worked with the UK Chamber of Commerce network for nearly twenty years the business now provides software to 50+ Chambers, including an expanding list overseas. This partnership working has enabled cumulative efficiencies equivalent to thousands of days of productivity improvements for the UK alone, allowing traders to increase profitability while producing globally compliant documentation, and minimising trade friction. This is all achieved in a platform that uses trader behaviour and feedback to drive efficiencies and shepherd users to the required tasks for their particular transactions, in accordance with government and international standards. This learning is sure to prove even more useful post Brexit, with any future trading agreement likely to necessitate originating content substantiation to utilise reduced rates of duty for qualifying goods. In the interim period there has already been an uplift in the requirement for non-preferential certificates of origin, and these are expected to become necessities for a sizeable proportion of the substantial number of UK businesses only currently trading with EU markets.

When it comes to origin substantiation, there is also the practical matter of the documents themselves. At present, UK exporters use documents standardised across the EU, for both preferential and non-preferential origin. Going forward, these are likely to need to be replaced with UK-only versions. The documents used for non-preferential origin have already been printed and circulated to the issuing body network, and software systems readied to ensure a smooth transition when the UK leaves. At the time of writing, the UK government is still working on the preferential aspect, and SGS remains in contact with HMRC and the British Chambers of Commerce to ensure a similarly smooth transition in regard to documents currently titled EURs, used to evidence preferential origin status. The workflow within the ezCert platform will also be adapted to ensure compliance with the customs notices on the topic, as information is released.

The area of customs messaging has never had so much attention. With declarations required regardless of the type of Brexit deal achieved, the emphasis on the topic has led many thousands of businesses to unpick their requirements, and reliance on intermediaries who complete a large proportion of customs declarations of imports and exports. With the demand for declarations set to grow dramatically when the UK leaves, the additional cost to business will be measured in the billions. SGS i2i software enables users to make these declarations using data from their own systems at a fraction of the cost, while gaining critical oversight of potential liabilities including VAT for exports and duty payment on imports.

While the UK’s future relationship with the EU remains uncertain, there has never been a better time for businesses to optimise their trade and customs activities. With 30+ years’ experience now combined with the global reach of SGS, SGS i2i is the logical choice for businesses looking to increase resilience and build efficiencies in changing times.

Brian Dakers, an SGS expert and former UK Government appointed Inspector and Assessor of standards relating to origin (2009–2017) via the British Chambers of Commerce, offers his expertise to The Export Hub.

Published by Rickie Cole, SGS expert who writes for The Export Hub on behalf of SGS.

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