As the Brexit transition period comes to an end, the next few months will see some critical negotiations with EU state members and the UK as it prepares to leave the union on January 21st, 2021.
There are many complexities involved and while various outcomes have been discussed at length over the past few years, it is clear that Ireland will be affected, and the cost of trading will undoubtedly increase.
Indeed, Ingrid De Doncker, CEO of IDDEA, says the UK has always been a very strong trading partner for us and Brexit will have a severe impact. But while it impossible to predict exactly what will happen over the coming months and years, Irish firms should try to prepare for any eventuality.
Preparation is key
“If the negotiations of a future trade agreement cannot be reached before the end of 2020, it would mean that the UK would ‘fall off the cliff’ in 2021 in a hard Brexit scenario,” she says.
“And in time of disruption, thinking forward of the different scenarios is the most we can do – we know that the impact will be severe for Ireland and will not only affect trade, but the whole of society.
“Best Practice would advise that Supply Chain Leaders need to forensically examine the trail of any product or service they buy, from farm to fork, and map the links in that chain. In reality, this is not possible, but we should do this for the core products and services we buy and also engage with key suppliers for which the survival of our business depends on.”
It’s not too late to take action
The expert says that negotiations are likely to pivot around finding the best solution to tariffs, goods crossing the border, large quotas, land bridge transit, barriers for service trade and regulatory divergence. Different sectors are going to be impacted differently as well so one size – of the best outcome in this case – might not fit all. And while detail is still scant around these and other issues, companies should not sit on their laurels.
“A lack of detail from negotiations is not an excuse for being underprepared when the potential change is so significant,” she advises. “Procurement can provide a competitive advantage by being proactive in risk identification, mitigation and cost optimization. And we expect underprepared organizations to suffer profitability consequences.
“By now, businesses should have identified and assessed the critical risks and created contingency plans where risks were not acceptable or impacting the growth or survival of the business.
“But if this hasn’t been done, there are still ways to mitigate the impact including: revisiting your business goals and reconfirming your product and services, listening to your customers, analysing data and prioritising key suppliers and materials, developing full transparency of supply chain links and identifying and assessing all risks and opportunities in your local chain and broadening your supply base.”
Be open to change
Over the past few months, companies across every sector have been forced to slow down and while business is slowly returning to some sort of normality, De Doncker says companies should continue to use this time wisely and focus time, money and effort where it matters.
“We will shortly see the return of employees to work and the reopening of non-essential retail outlets, so you will need to develop new and innovative ways of working, both in your company and with your suppliers, that are compatible with social distancing.
“To prepare for this, make use of critical resources including: