Government launches major ‘new start’ Brexit campaign as businesses say they’re still not ready for end of transition period
Britain will leave its current transition period with the EU at the end of this year. (Image: PA)
The Government has launched a major new public information campaign to help people get ready for the end of the UK’s post-Brexit transition period at the end of this year.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said Brexit marked a “new start for everyone in the UK” as he unveiled details of the publicity blitz aimed at ensuring businesses and individuals are prepared for a host of changes to travel, trading and immigration once Britain fully leaves the bloc.
But the push came as a survey for the Institute of Directors found that just one in four companies are fully geared up for the UK’s exit from the bloc next year.
Dubbed ‘The UK’s new start: let’s get going’, the Government campaign will include a new ‘Check, Change, Go’ strapline pointing firms and individuals to a “straightforward checker tool” on the Government website spelling out the steps they will need to take to get ready.
Ministers are promising TV, radio, print and digital advertising to push the message, as well as a “field force team” to give one-to-one advice in person or over the phone.
And it says the campaign will be aimed at UK citizens looking to travel to the EU after January 1; importers and exporters to and from the bloc; UK nationals living in the UK or the European Economic Area; and EEA or Swiss citizens living in Britain.
It will highlight the need for Britons travelling to the bloc to get insurance, have a valid passport and check mobile phone roaming policies.
Businesses will be told how to register with customs authorities and obtain the documentation needed to trade.
And the Government is promising that the push will “also highlight the significant opportunities ahead”, with a vow to talk up new free trade agreements set to be signed once Britain leaves, “smarter regulation” for small businesses and help “for fishermen as we take back control of our coastal waters”.
Launching the new campaign, Mr Gove said: “At the end of this year we are leaving the single market and Customs Union regardless of the type of agreement we reach with the EU. This will bring changes and significant opportunities for which we all need to prepare.
"While we have already made great progress in getting ready for this moment, there are actions that businesses and citizens must take now to ensure we are ready to hit the ground running as a fully independent United Kingdom.
"This is a new start for everyone in the UK - British and European citizens alike - so let's get going."
'TRYING TO HIT A MOVING TARGET'
The launch came as the IoD study revealed that there is some way to go before businesses feel prepared for Britain’s full EU departure.
Nearly half of the 978 company directors polled by the organisation in late June said they were unable to prepare for Brexit right now, with one in seven “distracted by coronavirus” and almost a third demanding detail on any changes before making adjustments.
Just one in four (24%) said they were “fully prepared” for Brexit, while 19% said they were “somewhat prepared but intend to do more”.
The IoD’s director general Jonathan Geldart said: “With so much going on, many directors feel that preparing for Brexit proper is like trying to hit a moving target.
"Jumping immediately into whatever comes next would be a nightmare for many businesses.”
He added: “Directors want to take advantage of the opportunities that can come with an independent trade policy. They want to start this exciting new chapter on the front foot, not distracted by disruption.”
The UK is still in negotiations with the EU about a post-Brexit future relationship, but the Government said most of the guidance in the campaign will apply regardless of the outcome of those talks because Britain will be leaving the bloc’s single market and customs union.
It is promising further guidance specific to Northern Ireland in the coming weeks and “throughout the transition period”.
Sir Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, warned that firms who were already grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic would be unlikely to welcome fresh disruption in January.
"Businesses right across the United Kingdom have struggled to survive financially over the past few months as a result of the coronavirus crisis,” he said.
“The fact that the Government is now trying to force them to gear up and prepare for the end of the transition period will fill them with utter horror.”
He added: “It is time ministers sought as close as possible relationship with the European Union to not only minimise the damage to the UK, but allow both themselves and British business time to focus on getting the UK back on its feet again after the pandemic."