The deadline is fast approaching to agree on the rules for the new UK-EU relationship. The changes will affect many areas of life, including trade and immigration, which will start on January 1st 2021.
We are currently in the transition period which finishes on December 31st and a decision on what happens next must be reached by then. The transition period allows the UK and EU to agree on a trade deal. However, if no deal is reached by the deadline, it will result in new tariffs and checks. Tariffs would make UK goods more expensive and harder to sell and full border checks could cause long delays at ports. Furthermore, even if a Brexit trade deal is reached, it would not eliminate new checks altogether.
How will Brexit affect TCM?
Whether we reach a trade deal or not, all business in the UK will be affected in one way or another due to the potential economic impacts and labour issues. Some industries may be impacted more than others but it is those that trade internationally that will see the greatest change – including Phoenix Medical.
As we will be leaving the customs union, the movement of free trade between us and European countries will stop. Unlike Switzerland which is surrounded by land, the United Kingdom is an island and we rely on sea freight and air cargo to import and export products, so without the customs union, overseas trade will be expensive for every industry.
For our internal sales team, this means additional paperwork for any orders of TCM supplies going overseas. For TCM practitioners in the EU, delivery costs to order from Phoenix and other TCM suppliers in the UK are likely to increase and a customs clearance charge of £25 is usually applicable per order.
The impact of Brexit on regulation is potentially enormous. In many areas, the UK largely works to European-wide standards and UK regulation will likely continue to comply with those standards. At present, acupuncture and herbal medicine are self-regulated professions in the UK and represented by registers such as the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ATCM), the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), the Federation of Chinese Medicine Practitioners (FTCMP) and the Register of Herbal Medicine (RCHM). Leaving the EU may mean that we can take back control over-regulation on herbal medicine, and design the law to maximise the benefit to patients.
The Next Steps
Unfortunately, we cannot predict what is going to happen on December 31st but we do know that even if a trade deal is reached, it would not eliminate the possibility of checks altogether. Fortunately, we have been exporting products internationally for many years so we have a lot of experience regarding trading with non-EU countries. We have already implemented systems to generate customs paperwork with information such as commodity codes and description of goods. This will help to ensure products can get through customs and be delivered efficiently to customers in Europe.
However, exporting outside of the EU can incur additional fees for custom and duty charges. There may also be additional delivery time which customers need to be aware of. If this is the case, we recommend placing larger orders less frequently and stocking up before December 2020. Our products have a long shelf of around 4 years so they can be purchased and easily stored. We recommend buying 3-6 months’ worth of stock to tide you over throughout the first few months of 2021.
Moreover, we are in a very fortunate position whereby we have established European distributors. We currently have distributors in the Netherlands, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Hungry, as well as our sister German company, China Purmed. Having connections within Europe allows us to continue to provide a great service to TCM practitioners all over Europe.
Regardless of the circumstances, we will continue to supply the best quality herbal medicine and acupuncture needles to our customers. If you have concerns regarding Brexit, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.