Kent County Council’s Trading Standards Officers are offering free specialist advice to local firms needing help to do business with the EU.
The move to provide no-cost regulatory guidance to businesses via a dedicated advice line on 03333 602300 has been made possible thanks to a Kent and Medway Growth Hub grant.
Open Monday-Friday (9am-6pm), the one-stop-shop offers businesses support to meet the new Brexit-related border requirements and will be particularly helpful to small businesses who do not have this type of expertise in-house.
Ahead of the UK leaving the EU, government agreed to introduce new trade rules in stages to give businesses grappling with the pandemic more time to adjust.
As a result, since 1 January British exporters have had to follow new rules while importers have had a grace period to give them more time to prepare for change.
But that period comes to an end for some next month when additional documentary checks on products of animal and plant origin, such as EU honey, lavender, meat, seafood, leather and pet food made in the European Union, come online.
The key changes Kent importers need to be ready for on 1 April are:
- Ensuring a legal representative for the goods is appointed
- Making sure labelling is correct, and
- Assuring goods carry the right product marking (a CE Mark if goods have undergone ‘conformity testing’ in the EU is allowed up to the end of this year, but the new UKCA mark will be mandatory from 1 January 2022).
The rules for all imports change on 1 July with the introduction of physical checks and goods may be subject to compliance inspections at Border Control Posts.
Head of KCC Trading Standards Steve Rock said: “Working closely with local businesses, we know many SMEs are still struggling to get their goods and documentation ready to meet new export requirements.
“We have been working hard to help – but we are only 50% of the way there in terms of the complex changes that leaving the EU is bringing to the Kent business community, as now our importers need to prepare for the introduction of import checks.
“It is also very important that small businesses check their supply chain to ensure that their suppliers are ready to import from European Union countries so that they do not face similar delays.
“Not being able to bring goods into the UK because the right forms have not been completed, or having products held up at the border because of incorrect labelling, will all incur costs and could result in loss of trade. So, my message to Kent businesses is: ‘call our Business Advice Team – it’s free, will help you make the necessary checks and changes needed and could ultimately save you lots of money’.”
As they did ahead of 1 January’s EU Exit Day, KCC Trading Standards advisors will be scheduling another series of “Ask the Expert” webinars, this time covering both import as well as export requirements. Dates will be promoted on the Kent County Council Trading Standards EU Trade page, and the Growth Hub website as well as Twitter (@Kentcc_business), Facebook ( KCC.BUSINESS.ADVICE) and LinkedIn ( https://uk.linkedin.com/in/kccbusinessadvice).
Tudor Price, of the Kent and Medway Growth Hub, said: “Businesses are battling to get to grips with the post-Transition landscape, so we want to remind local exporters and importers that you aren’t alone.
“We have used Brexit grant funding to ensure free specialist help is available to all businesses to navigate the new rules, including information on customs, VAT and trade terms. Advice is just a phone call away.”
Around 9,600 (8%) Kent businesses export to Europe, either directly or through supply chains. A total 24,500 (27%) Kent businesses are involved in importing – directly or via suppliers – from the single market.
As well as talking to KCC Trading Standards and the Growth Hub for advice, and attending webinars, businesses can also:
- Check out Kent County Council’s Brexit Hub for information and updates
- Go to GOV.UK for a list of what needs to be done differently, get a personalised checklist by answering a few short questions, and watch a video on what the new rules mean
- Subscribe to the Kent County Council Trading Standards mailing list to receive updates, and
- Visit Kent International Business for information about a new KCC-Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce project aimed at helping small businesses access overseas markets. The initiative is funded by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership and companies interested in participating can register their interest here