Last reviewed 21 September 2020

According to a leading specialist in cloud-based logistics, barely a quarter (23%) of UK supply chain managers have high confidence in their ability to cope with the extra administrative burden of Brexit.

Independent research commissioned by Descartes found that two-thirds (67%) of large firms are very or extremely concerned about longer delays in the supply chain impacting their business after the transition period.

Tariff payments (40%) and customs declarations (40%) are the next highest concerns.

For many, 2020 was meant to be the year of “Brexit Preparation” but, since March, Covid-19 has resulted in unprecedented change throughout every supply chain.

According to Descartes, many firms felt they had no option but to shelve planning for the UK leaving the EU and, in many cases, use cash and stock initially reserved for Brexit-related disruption, simply to survive.

Only 10% of supply chain managers told the survey that they have total certainty regarding the impact of Brexit on their business while 52% now think that a UK-EU trade deal is unlikely to be achieved this year.

Descartes argues that its findings underline a key fact: those organisations and supply chain managers with existing experience of customs declarations are far more worried about the implications of Brexit on the business than those who have yet to discover the complexity of customs processes.

Significantly, it said, with consumer behaviour having fundamentally changed during Covid-19, this inexperience is likely to catch out many smaller sole traders who have moved to an e-commerce model and rely on trade with the EU during the pandemic.

Government figures suggest that British companies trading with Europe will have to fill in an extra 215 million customs declarations a year post Brexit — with a potential cost to businesses of around £7 billion a year.

Unfortunately, Descartes concludes, there are simply not enough third-party providers to support this huge increase in demand.