When it comes to dealing with uncertainty, SMEs do have size on their side. Being smaller than their corporate counterparts, they are more agile and can adapt quickly to changing market conditions. But there is a flip side. SMEs that rely on cross border trade are especially vulnerable to disruptions to their supply chain. Stockpiling is expensive, takes up space and therefore is an unlikely option. SMEs are also more sensitive than larger businesses to how trading conditions impact their cash flow.
How can SMEs mitigate the impact of Brexit on their ability to operate?
Use free advice and resources
There’s no need to use precious resources to reinvent the wheel. We recommend using what’s already available to help you plan:
- gov.uk carries detailed advice and information which is business sector specific. It also provides guidance on subjects such as IP and funding. (www.gov.uk/get-ready-brexit-check)
- The Federation for Small Businesses’ s Brexit Hub, has guidance available covering the import and export of goods, the employment of EU staff, the transfer of data in and out of the EU and much more (www.fsb.org.uk/standing-up-for-you/brexit-home/brexit-hub)
- The British Chamber of Commerce has a useful download checklist that covers everything from the impact of Brexit on your workforce, cross border trade, taxation and insurance, IP, compliance and funding. (www.britishchambers.org.uk/page/brexit-hub)
Ask your suppliers about their Brexit plans
We recommend contacting your suppliers and asking them about their Brexit plans. For example, if your industry is dependent on the import or export of goods then you need to know how your suppliers will keep trading post Brexit:
- What are your plans to mitigate port delays for imports and exports?
- How will you manage changes in tax liabilities and shipping tariffs?
- What is your policy regarding increasing your stock levels?
Don’t forget Brexit affects data transfers as well as cross border trade
European data protection laws, including GDPR), will be incorporated into UK Law post Brexit. Under GDPR any transfers of personal data from the EEA to a ‘third country,’ (which is what the UK will become, post Brexit), are referred to as ‘restricted transfers.’ Restricted transfers require ‘appropriate safeguards.’ If you use cloud storage, software applications or outsourcing to process or store personal data, you may be making transfers to data centres outside the UK and theses transfers require appropriate safeguards. An example of this would be Microsoft Office 365 which uses data centres across the world.
Talk to your IT providers about data transfers
Do your IT providers transfer data in and out of the UK? If they do, you need to ask:
- What safeguards do they have in place?
You will then need to ask your IT providers to evidence the exact type of safeguards they have in place:
- Does the destination country have an ‘adequacy decision’ in place? An adequacy decision is a determination by the European Commission that the country in receipt of the data transfer offers an adequate level of data protection.
- If your software or cloud provider transfers data to or from the U.S.A does that provider participate in the EU-US Privacy Shield? Remember the U.S.A does not have an overarching adequacy decision in place.
- If your US-based provider is not covered by the Privacy Shield then you need to check your contractual terms and conditions to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place.
As an IT provider we are most interested in the impact of Brexit on the availability of IT hardware and on where our customers’ data is stored. Ensuring our customers’ data is safe and secure and that we can supply the equipment they require to operate is pivotal for us.
If you need advice on keeping your IT systems safe and compliant, call a professional now on 02392007850.