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Economy Minister Diane Dodds has outlined basic steps businesses can take to prepare for the end of the transition period.

A recent survey by the NI Business Brexit Working Group found fewer than one in five businesses were prepared for 1 January.

The Minister said: “This has been a time of great uncertainty for businesses and I share the frustration that many will be feeling about the shortness of time left before we face profound changes in the way we trade with our largest market in GB.

“However, there is still time to take some actions now that will assist businesses as they transition to these new processes and arrangements.”

The steps businesses can take include:

  • Sign up for the Trader Support Service.
  • Register for an EORI number.
  • Check your commodity codes for goods you buy and sell.
  • Apply for the UK Trader Scheme.

The Minister continued: “I cannot promise that the transition will be a smooth one, but I want businesses to know that we will do everything possible to assist and support them through these changes.

“There has been news in the last week about grace periods for some requirements. These are very limited and only available for specific products for a limited amount of time. I know this can be confusing but I want to be clear: there is no grace period for customs processes.

“I am also concerned about awareness and preparedness for changes in goods regulation – particularly for highly regulated goods like chemicals. Chemicals include a wide variety of products that businesses use every day like cleaning products, paint and plastics and there is a complex map of regulation that governs the sale and import of these products.

“It is critical to note that if businesses purchase chemicals from GB, to either sell on as a distributor, or for usage as downstream user, they may have to take on new responsibilities. Similarly, they should prepare for changes if they sell to GB.”

The Minister also addressed the issue of data transfer.

She said: “At the moment, cross border transfers of personal data from the EU to the UK can take place without restrictions. However, following the end of the transition period, it is increasingly likely that NI businesses and organisations receiving data from the EU will need alternative transfer mechanisms in place.

“I am more than willing to support business on any of these issues, whether this means taking UK Government to task for what they need to do to support businesses or providing support through my own Department.

“I also want to recognise the personal stress that all of this will cause for many in business. I know many are working flat out and have been for some time. Please know that you are not alone in your worries, and that support is available.”