Today the Prime Minister told government workers that planning for a no-deal Brexit should be their top priority, and summer holidays for political advisers was cancelled.  So should business do likewise?

No-deal Brexit is now the most likely outcome on 31 October: 

  • Both sides have dug in: Boris Johnson is refusing to engage with EU leaders unless they abandon the Irish backstop; EU leaders have made clear they will not do so and are increasingly resigned to no-deal. 
  • Boris Johnson has made crystal clear that the UK will leave on 31 October and has little wriggle room to U-turn. 
  • There is a slim chance of MPs stopping no-deal:  the opposition are too divided and not aligned around a single strategy, they will have little time to do anything and a determined Prime Minister can do much to deflect Parliament.  

No-deal on 31 October must be the planning assumption for all organisations.  

 Up to two-thirds of the mid-sized businesses I talk to at seminars don’t yet have a plan for Brexit. But a third do – which means that every business without a plan has at least one competitor who is much better prepared for Brexit.

What should businesses do?

Don’t delay! There is already little time left for business to prepare for no-deal on 31 October: now less than 85 days away.  

An immediate focus needs to be on assessing business continuity for the immediate weeks and months after a no-deal Brexit and – related to that – the essential compliance needs for that period. My Brexit essentials guide sets out some areas to consider

Priorities for this month

A number of things need to be in place in the next month:-

Supply chain and distribution: Businesses need a supply chain plan in place by mid-September at the latest in order to be ready by 31 October when significant disruption is expected at RoRo ferries between UK and France and Ireland. After mid-September it will probably be too late to book extra warehousing; to reconfigure your supply chain or distribution; to start building up stock, or secure extra transportation before 31 October; and talk to customers and suppliers and agree to adjust delivery dates.  

For manufacturers, retailers and anyone dependent upon just-in-time delivery, the top priority for the next few weeks should decide how best to mitigate the logistics disruption we can expect from November through to the new year. My colleague Olly has some tips here

Customs and exporting: businesses exporting to the EU who want to make use of HMRC’s no-deal simplified import procedures need to get applications in by the end of September as we are seeing one month processing times for these

If you are an exporter, go through HMRC’s Brexit readiness checklist and make any applications.

Plan at pace: More generally, identify the best way of rapid decision making to enable you to be ready across your organisation and supply chain.  Brexit planning cuts across the usual departmental borders: it covers HR, finance, risk, marketing, sales, operations, distribution and supply chain. A plan needs to join up these areas.  

Often our clients find the best way of accelerated decision making is to hold a workshop with the leadership team and increasingly this is how we are best helping clients to act quickly whether developing an overall plan, assessing options for operational model, bringing together their suppliers for Brexit readiness seminars, or developing a workforce and talent plan. 

In the space of a few hours people can assess the issues and priorities and agree a clear action plan. Normal project management then needs to be applied to ensure stuff gets done quickly afterwards.

The Brexit deadline is looming. If you have not prepared there is still time; but you need to act fast.