Since the 23rd March 2020, when the UK transitioned overnight into a self-enforced national lockdown in an attempt to curtail the transmission of COVID-19, executives have been almost entirely focused on damage limitation to their people, business infrastructure and trading position. As we now emerge from lockdown, in the absence of a viable vaccine and attempt to manage the further spread of the virus by local, less economically damaging measures, we must focus on other important events looming large on the immediate time horizon. If not handled correctly and with knowledge, insight and experience these events will be as equally damaging to many of our UK businesses as the virus itself.
On 23rd June 2016, long before the phrase COVID-19 entered our popular vocabulary, the people of Great Britain by virtue of a long-promised referendum voted to leave the European Union. This result, albeit by the narrowest of margins, triggered the UK Government to subsequently launch Article 50 on 29th March 2017 and the process of “Brexit” began in earnest with a target resolution date of 29th March 2019. Despite the process to date having witnessed the departure of two prime ministers and three Brexit Secretaries, two General Elections, two major Chequers summits, three “meaningful votes” in the House of Commons, one prorogation of parliament and millions of man-hours of discussions later by politicians, civil-servants and lawyers on both sides of the English Channel the outcome for UK business still seems a little unclear!
While it is widely hoped that the UK Government and the European Union will amicably settle their differences before the end of 2020, when the official transition period terminates, the position seems to vacillate daily between a structured, controlled exit for UK businesses and a hard crash-landing under WTO rules.
Clearly, businesses work better under terms of economic certainty rather than in the turmoil that has been created by the Brexit process and further exacerbated by the onset of COVID-19. Much has been written on both topics, but little has been achieved by way of resolution. And indeed, for each organisation concerned and the executives driving it, the solution will be a very personal one, driven by the different nature of markets, politics and economics they serve. But, one thing is for sure, returning to work needs to be done safely, quickly and efficiently. And history will show that successful businesses will have been the ones who can demonstrate that they have used these next few weeks wisely to understand, strategize, plan and implement in the terribly complex environment that is now the “new normal”.
So, accepting the future will be challenging, how can a business simplify the complexity that now surrounds them and create a workable, pragmatic and actionable roadmap to return to a full-trading position as quickly as possible with the minimum risk given the constraints it now faces, be that against a “deal” or “no-deal” resolution before time runs out to consider all the options on 31 December 2020?
“Coming to a free trade agreement with the EU should be one of the easiest in human history.”
– Dr Liam Fox, UK International Trade Secretary
Here at Centigo, we have 300+ consultants who are highly qualified, well trained and deeply experienced across a wide range of industries that can be deployed rapidly to help you put your business, customers and suppliers back to work in a safe, structured and compliant manner. Members of our team have successfully helped many businesses, large and small, restore their capability in the aftermath of crisis events (e.g. those of 9/11) and we can therefore in relation to your post COVID-19/Brexit position: -
• Mobilize quickly to help provide you with an authoritative, independent understanding of your current trading situation and your future options.
• Help you to understand the current position on bi-lateral cross-border trading, regulations and tariffs for the markets you serve and that serve your own operations.
• Review your current supplier readiness/supplier management processes using well-proven, advanced diagnostic tools to identify and correct risks, issues, gaps, exclusions, points of friction, etc.
• Assist you to, perhaps, re-source materials from alternative suppliers to minimise post-Brexit costs.
• Help you to create a detailed, robust “return to market” action plan and help you to put in place any corrective actions resulting from the supplier diagnostic assessment.
• Support you through the “return to market” ramp-up with any necessary procedural, process and cultural changes that you will of necessity have to make going forwards.
• Work with you to help you understand for the immediate future what strategy, process, procedure, people and technology enablers you can leverage (such as “digital”) to address your changed needs and the needs of your customers in their changed markets.
• Support your business during ramp-up and beyond to ensure you have access to the necessary trained, experienced professionals who can quickly answer your questions and help de-risk your journey.
Every business is, of course, quite different and will need the structure above tailoring to meet your specific needs. Getting back to work will need the application of different skills and expertise depending on your market sector. To find out how Centigo can help you successfully return to competitiveness quickly and effectively in these difficult and uncertain times please feel free to contact us.
 World Trade Organisation