Brexit: Beast of Burden or Beast and Burden

Our departure from the European Union has now inexorably happened, throwing us into unchartered waters regarding forming new boundaries and a strategy for the beginning of the rest of the British people’s lives.

It would be prudent to recognise how the impact of Covid-19 continues to create obstacles with Brexit policies and amendments announced alongside measures being implemented to deal with a global pandemic, which is occurring in total disregard of the UK’s historical termination of an established status quo.  These blurred lines may continue for some time yet, further exacerbating the fact that policies and procedures, laws, rules and amendments, are still being established, leaving clarity well out of reach for the foreseeable future.

Friday, 1st January was the official day the United Kingdom left the European Union.

From immediate effect European travel rules changed. While this overlap with COVID-19 complications will be most certainly noticed – as in non-EU countries are currently banned from visiting the EU, excluding for essential reasons – you are now only allowed to stay in Schengen area countries without a visa for 90 out of 180 days and have at least six months remaining on your passport.  The only exclusion to this is if you hold an Irish passport as well as a British one.

Unsurprisingly it’s all about borders, staying behind them, passing through them, and whose rules apply when it’s seen as entering, exiting, visiting, staying, importing/exporting, what goods can be bought – and so it goes on, with the ramifications exceedingly convoluted and contentious already.

Though the UK and EU have agreed that there will be no taxes on each other’s goods when borders are crossed, they will need to make custom declarations as they would if dealing with other countries worldwide, inevitably increasing the volume of paperwork and processing.

We need more bees – such a seemingly unimportant statement to make – we are one of three countries in Europe to see a decline in bee colonies. Fewer bees mean less pollination, so less fruits, and a growing need for yet more food imports, however new, slightly macabre, rules mean only queen bees are allowed into the country. Brexit is really affecting the minutiae to the mountainous.

Within weeks of 2021 beginning, larger issues saw Northern Ireland having serious food shortages; being part of the UK and Ireland means arduous bureaucracy and sadly supermarkets opening with many empty shelves. It’s now not economically viable for mainland UK haulage firms to deliver to Northern Ireland, resulting in only 25-30% of the traffic arriving at the ports compared with last year. Consequently, food is generally more expensive there now, with no obvious, efficient solutions.

One of the first prominent issues regarding boundaries and privileged priorities since Brexit was announced as just a possibility, were the implications regarding fishing rights, and fisheries themselves. 80% of fish sold to the EU used to come from the UK and probably unknown to most,  this subject alone generated 1200 pages of legislation, the merest glimpse into the vast time-consuming complexities to be appropriated.

To quote the Guardian, one month into the trade deal, the “teething problems”, for importers and exporters has been likened to “Dante’s fifth circle of hell”, unable to move supplies because of red tape. 60% of British companies who felt prepared for Brexit are experiencing disruption with supply chains significantly impacted.

There is consideration, and proactive movement, from many British companies enquiring about setting up overseas, and some US and Asian companies investigating setting up elsewhere in EU countries rather than the UK. Austria is one such country where enquiries have trebled within a year, and the Netherlands are also experiencing huge external interest, offering a range of financial incentives to UK firms and expat workers. Momentum is in fact coming from the Department for International Trade in proactively advising UK businesses who are feeling burdened by regulations, custom checks and costs associated with transportation, to set up in countries like France, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Currently, British lorry drivers crossing to France will be exempt from requiring the PCR coronavirus test and use what is called the lateral flow system, a rapid test system for any COVID symptoms. However France is trying to oppose this, and 72-hour delays will cause chaos of many kinds, not least livestock detained in far from ideal conditions which is bound to provoke animal rights activists.

Did you know a Mini motor car crosses the channel 8 times during the build process before being sold to a UK dealership?  The car industry will now have to prove the percentage of each car’s parts that are produced on UK soil or abroad; one can only imagine the vast amounts of paperwork procedures that will have to be adhered too.

Seemingly in contradiction to all that is observed, such as the impact to the GDP with UK stock markets looking cheap compared to European stocks, there was a letter penned to the Conservative party supporters by international trade secretary Liz Truss saying, “We have taken back control of our trade to deliver jobs and prosperity across the UK”, already seizing vast opportunities across the world with trade deals worth £885bn with 63 countries and the EU, already agreed. The Government said “The UK is a fantastic place to do business and invest, and we are helping business seize the opportunities open to a fully independent global trading United Kingdom. Businesses across the country have adapted well to the changes to trading with the EU, and trade continues to flow smoothly, with no disruption at UK ports”.

British expatriates in EU countries who have UK bank accounts may find those accounts closed by the end of the year, some may already be closed, and the flexible “passporting” rights with EU banks will no longer apply to British lenders. There are solutions in terms of some UK based banks’ digital account providers or a bank in the country in which you have residency, but this is critical to investigate especially if you have businesses or property in different countries.

Should you want to retire abroad at a later date, the Government have confirmed that you will still have your state pension increases, and workplace pensions should be stable, but it’s important to contact your providers and banks for clarification as it emerges.

It is also important to recognise the 90 day rule commenced from the 1st January 2021, and that freedoms regarding duration in EU countries means your 90 days (out of 180 days) is ticking by quickly. This could have a significant impact on those with holiday homes and property abroad.

It ultimately feels impossible to predict with any clear definition how the many strands of Brexit agreements and policies will unfold, which is undoubtedly leaving both UK citizens and Brits residing in the EU, feeling the earth beneath their feet is disconcertingly ruptured.

While planning and understanding how to establish a sound and reliable financial future has always required investigation, and the need to source the best advice you can, one can assuredly state that more than ever, the financial landscape is particularly evolving, and the consultation with financial experts becomes ever more prudent in preparation for your future and the future of your loved ones.

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