As another year draws to a close, an orderly withdrawal plan continues to elude us.

We've witnessed enough political posturing to last a lifetime - or at least until the next general election - with Mrs May's proposed deal unlikely to pass a vote in the Commons.

It isn’t the most encouraging news for UK business – nor those companies across the channel that trade with Britain. The reality is, regardless of Brexit, both export and import has continued to thrive, with the volume of goods arriving from the EU rising steadily since 2015, along with non-EU imports. Similarly, UK companies export more goods to the EU than ever before – 56% of goods leaving our shores are destined for the EU.

However, we should also remember that most EU countries still import more to the UK than vice versa, with the exception of Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden and Ireland, so a smooth transition plan that safeguards trading relationships is important for both UK and EU business.

Today, the Port of Dover will deal with approximately 16 vehicles which require checks – in the absence of a deal, that number could rise to 4,000 a day.

However, it isn’t all doom and gloom – uncertainty is the enemy of business, so we must work hard – and work together – to eliminate it. Effective, timely forward-planning is the key to weathering any friction in the days, weeks and months following Brexit, ensuring business continuity.

So, what are the practical steps exporters and importers should be taking to equip themselves for a post-Brexit future?

Stockpile on both sides of channel 

Whether import or export, businesses should stockpile goods in the UK and overseas. We don’t know what the situation will be on either side of the channel come 29 March, but by having stores of goods in place, businesses will have the very best chance of being able to meet customer expectations, with as little disruption as possible.

How is your Freight Forwarder planning for a no-deal scenario?

Ask your Freight Forwarder what their plans are for a no deal scenario. It’s advisable to trade with an AEO accredited Freight Forwarder, which allows swifter movement through customs.

Businesses should already be working closely with their Freight Forwarder to assess their current trade arrangements and commitments, making use of their knowledge and expertise to understand how their company can prepare for the changes ahead.

Think about switching port 

Businesses should consider switching to a port that may not be as severely affected, taking into account route, rate and freight services – it may be freight dependent.

Consider Air Freight

Airports may have less issues, so it could be wise to switch to air freight – even as an interim measure – if you can afford to do so and routes are direct into the UK.

If transporting perishables, air freight may be essential – do take advice on this.

Talk to suppliers

Work closely with your suppliers and customers to make arrangements – make sure you’re in the picture in terms of what they’ve done to prepare, with a forward-view on any potential issues.

Budget for the long-term

 It’s possible that, whatever the scenario, it may become more expensive to move goods – can your business cover that? Make sure you add it into your budgets and have a contingency plan.

Don’t neglect the data 

Gather the data you may require for international trade to and from the U K – this is country dependent; it varies significantly depending on the country and commodity. Look at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) website for a guide on the worse-case scenario as far as duty is concerned for all countries:

Businesses should also consider whether they have someone they can call on who is trained in internal customs declaration. Establish this and set up a line of communication should you need to call on their services. It’s sensible to become a member of the Chamber of Commerce, which can guide businesses with more information.

Prepare necessary documentation

 As a quick guide, businesses will always need an invoice, packing list and a tracking document (CMR document).

Country and commodity dependent, businesses may also require:

  • Certificate of Origin and a Preference Document (both available from the Chamber of Commerce)
  • Export Health Certificates (an official UK Government document issued by APHA and signed by an official veterinarian)
  • Testing Certificates e.g for electrical goods
  • Full ingredients lists for food and drink products
  • Effective forward-planning will give your business the very best chance of minimising any adverse impact following Brexit.