LONDON (Reuters) - A swathe of British businesses are unprepared for the end of the Brexit transition period at the turn of the year, a survey from the British Chambers of Commerce showed on Thursday.
Some 51% of companies had not taken any steps recommended by the government to prepare for changes in the trade of goods, the survey showed, with little more than three months to go before a shift in the terms of trade with the European Union.
Britain told businesses on Wednesday to prepare for paperwork or face 100 km-long queues of lorries when the country’s post-Brexit transition arrangement ends, prompting accusations that the government was setting up industry to take blame for any chaos from a botched Brexit.
“Significant unanswered questions remain for businesses, and despite recent public information campaigns, base levels of preparedness are low,” BCC director general Adam Marshall said.
The government is negotiating new trade rules with the bloc but talks have stalled.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told importers and exporters on Wednesday that they would have to complete extra trade paperwork whether there is a deal or not.
“Many firms say they’ve heard talk of deadlines and cliff edges before, and others are still grappling with fundamental challenges as a result of the pandemic and have little cash or information with which to plan,” Marshall said.
The pandemic’s drain on company finances is already feeding through into pay deals, according to a separate survey on Thursday.
Pay data provider XpertHR said the median pay rise awarded to staff by British employers fell to zero in the three months to August - a reading last seen 11 years ago during the global financial crisis.
“In April we saw many organisations defer a decision on their pay review until later in the year – this practice continues, with employers still unable to confirm that a pay rise can be given,” said Sheila Attwood, pay and benefits editor at XpertHR.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak is due to update parliament at around 1130 GMT on new measures to support jobs, possibly comprising a new wage subsidy for British companies rather than any extension of the furlough programme.
Reporting by Andy Bruce, editing by David Milliken
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