Your partner in British Dutch Business

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On Thursday 2nd July 2020, the NBCC Webinar: Brexit – The Final Countdown took place on the day the deadline for asking for an extension of the Brexit negotiations had passed.

Jan-Willem Thoen from PwC set the scene by mentioning that change on 1st January 2021 is now a certainty. He explained the main areas of divergence between the EU and the UK, for example, the level playing field, and said the negotiations will now intensify over the summer. 
Then our keynote speaker, Minister Kaag, shared a clear message: "We will enter into a new (trade) relationship with the UK after 31 December 2020, with or without an agreement. It is important that entrepreneurs do prepare for the new situation. They can do so by visiting, discussing the situation with suppliers and buyers and arrange their transport well and on time. We are ready to assist entrepreneurs in these important months before and after December 31st 2020”. 
Then Hans de Boer from VNO-NCW started his speech with two statements:
1. "We tried to feed the discussion with rational arguments, avoiding a no-deal Brexit. Most of it has been to no avail"
2. "We tried to prepare the business sector for a no-deal scenario, but a recent survey from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows that the percentage of business actively preparing is declining. This is understandable because of COVID-19, but irresponsible and worrisome".

Hans stated that the objective should be to: "Make the best out of the situation. With the logistical knowledge of The Netherlands, we should become the new hub between the EU and the UK. This makes sense from an opportunistic business point of view, but it also brings people together".

Dick Benschop from the Schiphol Group explained the importance of the UK for Schiphol. "Approximately 15% of the passengers (2019 figure) come from the UK, fly to the UK or transfer at Schiphol. This means that the UK is important to us, but we are also very important to the UK. We connect them to the wider world and want to continue doing that".

He also touched base on the changes Brexit will bring. "If you arrive from the UK and you have a British passport, there will be extra checks because you are a passenger from a third-country. Also, you will not be able to make use of our E-Gates".

Our next speaker Nanette van Schelven of the Dutch Customs Administration explained that the end of the transition period is in sight and as of 1st January 2021 various laws and regulations will be enforced on goods coming from and going to the UK as free movement of goods between UK and EU ends. With or without a trade agreement, as of 1stJanuary 2021 companies need to take into account:

·        Customs formalities for imports, exports and transit;
·         Possible levying of customs duties and trade policy measures;
·         Non-tariff trade barriers (such as veterinary and phytosanitary requirements, product requirements, and checks       on waste streams).

She stressed that cooperation is key: “The only way we can achieve this is by working together. New partnerships have been created, existing partnerships have been strengthened".

Rem Korteweg urged that the timeline is extraordinary tight, and we have little time to go as the deal still has to be negotiated. He also mentioned that if a deal is reached, it does not mean it will be a zero tariff, zero quota deal.  

Then Gerard van Balsfoort of the European Fisheries Alliance started by mentioning that no progress was made on the fisheries agreement and stressed that if there is no fisheries agreement, there will not be an economic agreement. Joanna Konings of ING explained the impacts of both an FTA and WTO rules on NL and UK GDP. Leon Kanters of KPMG Meijburg & Co explained the changes per 1 January 2021 and what companies can already do to prepare. Jurriaan Jansen of Norton Rose Fulbright explained that the outcome WTO or FTA is not relevant for exchange of (personal) data between businesses in the UK and the EU, and he explained what businesses can do now to mitigate any business disruption. Phillip Souta of Clifford Chance closed the session on a more positive note, stating that he believes there is now above a 50% chance of reaching a deal. 

A big thank you to our speakers and our great moderator, Jan-Willem Thoen of PwC!

To view the recording of the webinar, click here.