Political leaders urged to support businesses navigate ‘seismic’ period promising transformational benefits for international trade

On the eve of the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences, new analysis reveals the acute need for greater support to help British businesses navigate a pivotal 15 months of new rules related to international trade.

On the eve of the Conservative and Labour Party Conferences, new analysis reveals the acute need for greater support to help British businesses navigate a pivotal 15 months of new rules related to international trade.

A new report from the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) finds that over 20 major policy changes will impact all British firms who trade internationally between now and the end of 2024. This makes the period even busier and more pivotal than 2021, when the EU began applying full customs requirement and checks on UK exports.

The report shows that once this period of change is navigated, it will be transformational for British businesses and allow the UK to harness the potential of the new trade deals and opportunities being explored around the world. However, to capitalise on this opportunity, firms must act now to prepare – and policymakers of all colours must work together to ensure this bedding in period is a success.

Last month the government announced its plans for a significant new approach to importing goods into Great Britain via the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM). BTOM will progressively be introduced from January 2024, and will affect borders procedures for incoming food, animal and plant products. However, IOE&IT’s analysis finds that BTOM is just the beginning, with 23 major legislative and policy changes set to affect businesses either directly or through their supply chains, delivery partners or freight forwarders.

The changes set to come into force over the coming months include the fifth release of the New Computerised Transit System, the rollout of the Electronic Trade Documents Act, the EU Import Control System 2, as well as multiple updates to the documentation, risk-based checks and health certification checks on specific products. With specific requirements and levels of understanding needed for each, IOE&IT finds that the time and support needed to implement these changes will be substantial – but that the benefits will be vast.

As the country stands on the precipice of great change in how it does business with the rest of the world, the Institute of Export & International Trade is taking this report to Party Conferences with the clear message that the business community needs support, education and clarity in order to plan properly and navigate this critical period of change successfully.

Commenting on this analysis, Marco Forgione, Director General of The Institute of Export & International Trade, said: “The UK’s international trade community is on the launchpad of great change. Such a raft of new measures in so short a period of time is almost unheard of. This presents an enormous opportunity for Britain to reap the benefits of the new trade deals and partnerships we are pursuing around the world. But we need businesses and policymakers pulling together in the same direction.

“From cutting red tape to our new digital borders, these changes are undoubtedly a cause for excitement. But with so much change, there is naturally going to be some apprehension amongst business owners. This is understandable, and there will be a bedding in period – but the potential benefits if we can navigate this period successfully are profound. The digitalisation of UK trade has the potential to add £25bn to the country’s GDP. But that potential cannot be realised without certainty and support. Businesses need to feel confident that they can not only navigate these changes, but that they have sufficient time to prepare so stock levels, deliveries and suppliers aren’t negatively impacted.

“My message to our leaders at Party Conferences this season is clear, 2024 is going to see profound change in how we trade with the rest of the world. We can longer take for granted that businesses are fully aware of all the changes coming into force. It is essential there are no more delays and that we work together to give our business community the best chance to succeed. We have a golden opportunity here for British business to flourish – but they can only reap the rewards of efficient new border systems and trade deals if they are armed with the right skills and knowledge in plenty of time.”