From their offices overlooking Portsmouth Harbour – famously the home of Britain’s Royal Navy – the oceanographers at marine technology specialists RS Aqua have all the tools they need to see what’s going on beneath the waves.
And managing director Martin Stemp is determined to ensure his million-pound import and export business continues to enjoy plain sailing as it adapts to new rules now the Brexit transition period is over.
To help steer their course, he sent a staff member on a UK Government-subsidised training course on completing the new Customs declarations, which helps to ensure an uninterrupted flow of goods into and out of the country.
He also liaised with RS Aqua’s shipping companies and suppliers to guarantee their paperwork also complied with the new rules. “We import a lot of equipment,” he says. “And 15 to 20 per cent of our customers are outside the UK. Being able to import smoothly is essential to what we do here.”
Mr Stemp’s initial concerns over the impact of the Brexit transition period, which ended on 31 December last year, were soon laid to rest. This was in part because RS Aqua is in familiar waters; it exports to the US, Canada, Australia and other countries outside the European Union, which means the processes were already familiar.
“We already have some resources internally, as well as the Customs facilities to allow us to operate within and outside of the EU,” says Mr Stemp. “We’ve been doing that for a long time – we were already comfortable with dealing with the rest of the world outside of any free trade agreement.”
As a result, RS Aqua was quickly on top of the new Customs paperwork for goods going to the EU. “We already had EORI numbers and an HMRC deferment account,” he explains.
His next challenge? Resolving some of the VAT implications of RS Aqua’s dealings with EU customers. “We have less flexibility in terms of how we deal with customers, and the tax arrangements are still being ironed out,” he says. “But we’re getting there.”
For companies still on that journey, he points to the Department for International Trade and its Export Champions programme, which RS Aqua actively supports.
He also suggests talking to industry peers who are already exporting, to chart the post-transition journey. “You definitely need to plan in advance,” he says.
“There’s a lot to do and it’s not to be taken lightly, but there is the support there.”
Doing business with Europe has changed and new rules apply. Find out more at gov.uk/transition