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Catalan firms 'calm' in face of Brexit 'uncertainty'

ACCIÓ admits companies have "prepared very little" and experts recommend tailored contingency plans

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29 March 2019 05:42 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

With the UK on the verge of leaving the European Union, Catalan firms insist they are "calm" and "prepared" to face the changes that might result from Britain leaving the EU, but they also admit that they have yet to make any firm decisions regarding the situation.

Catalonia Trade & Investment (ACCIÓ) manager, Clàudia Danesi, warns that, with exceptions, "most firms have prepared very little," while those consulted by the Catalan News Agency say they have begun to make plans, but the "uncertainty" makes it hard.

Josep Maria Gascón, the founding member of Vitaes Talent, a consultancy specializing in business strategy, argues that each company has to come up with its own "tailored" solution to face the challenge that Brexit poses.

  • "All Brexit scenarios are open, from the toughest to those predicting a smoother exit that would have much less of an impact"

    Clàudia Danesi · Catalonia Trade & Investment manager

The UK is Catalonia's fifth largest trading partner, with more than 3,600 of its companies exporting to the country, and some 450 installed there. In fact, exports to the UK make up some 6% of the total, amounting to almost four billion euros.

That is why Danesi says that the impact of Brexit could be "significant," both for firms that import and those with brands registered in the UK.

"Companies have to precisely evaluate the risks and opportunities, as they cannot generalize," says Gascón, who gives the example of companies that offer "short life cycle products," who could be seriously affected by a no-deal Brexit.

"That would mean leaving immediately, and there would be customs barriers while the supply chain would be slower, with more costs, duties, periodicity, financial costs or cash flow," he says.

More enquiries at ACCIÓ

The ACCIÓ manager says that the number of enquiries made by companies to the agency has gone up in the face of the uncertainty, and that they have expressed their "concerns about different possible scenarios."

"All Brexit scenarios are open, from the toughest to those predicting a smoother exit that would have much less of an impact," she says. According to Danesi, companies are most concerned about issues relating to taxation, along with logistics, customs and regulations.

With the UK parliament rejecting prime minister Theresa May's exit plan for a third time on Friday, Gascón says "it's natural that in times of uncertainty firms should get anxious and want security," although he believes that, in the end, nothing "truly dramatic" will happen in relation to Brexit.

"We have seen all of the alternatives and we believe that we will be able to adapt to the new rules of the game," says Antoni Garriga, head of the Salicru company, who nevertheless regrets the "uncertainty". Yet, he also thinks that new customs duties or currency devaluation "do not signify a threat" because "it will affect everyone in the same way."

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