Print companies are bracing for a possible no-deal Brexit scenario as the governor of the Bank of England has warned that British businesses are not doing enough to prepare for the worst.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last week, Mark Carney also said that the UK will need a transition period to adapt to its exit from the EU, no matter what form Brexit takes.
Cautioning that a no-deal Brexit could lead to a recession, he said: “We know from our contacts with business, others know from their contacts, that less than half the businesses in the country have initiated their contingency plans for a no-deal Brexit.
“All the industries, all the infrastructure of the country, are they all ready at this point in time? And, as best as we can tell, the answer is no.
“We know issues around the borders, we go to the ports and we know the issues that are there today. So, we need some time to get ready for it.”
For Dumfries-based Solway Print, Brexit is set to cause headaches no matter what path is followed. Managing director Amanda Creedon Bass’ firm deals largely within the UK both for its suppliers and client base, but she is cautious of any ripple effects.
She said: “Solway stands strong and resilient. I keep in tight contact with our paper reps about any problems with supply but really, we do not know what is happening either way. I am hoping that there will not be too much of a change, but I cannot make specific plans as we do not know what the effects will be.
“It cannot be any worse than what has been thrown at the print sector in the past 10 years with the introduction of home publishing and information now at everyone’s fingertips.
“We sometimes outsource the odd job to a trade printer within the EU so that might be my only concern, but I can see trade printers in the UK adding to their facilities, so it may be that we can source that work from here if it becomes a problem.”
Supply and stock are at the forefront of most printers' minds as the March deadline nears. Merthyr Tydfil magazine specialist Stephens & George has set about securing guarantees from its suppliers to keep consumables coming in consistently after Brexit.
Managing director Andrew Jones said: “We have spoken to our major suppliers of paper, ink and plates to make sure we still have a continuous supply, and I am being told that will remain the case.
“I have been told by our suppliers that there are no additional taxes under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) code of practice, which I can imagine us defaulting to if a no-deal occurs. The way I see it that just saves the UK £39m on exit payments.
“Whether other countries want to be vindictive or not, with the best will in the world our relationship to the EU is worth billions and it will not be thrown away for the sake of it.”
Carney’s concerns may well be coming to fruition across the sector as preparations are reportedly scarce. Zoe Deadman, managing director at Launceston-based KCS Print, has been in discussions with suppliers and said they had heard little else.
She said: “We have been doing quite a lot of work on our Brexit planning and stockpiling will officially start in January. We have had meetings with all of our raw materials suppliers.
“What is interesting is that they are telling me how much more advanced our actions seem to be than their other clients, which is worrying. Waiting to see what happens will not be good as the supplies will be under stress by the time you get around to needing them.
“I have been working on a basis of ‘plan for the worst, hope for the best’, because I think Brexit will have a big impact even with a deal. There are concerns like freight and access to lower-skilled labour that concern me, too. I think there must be a better option than the deal on the table.”
The House of Commons will vote on 11 December whether or not to go along with a Brexit deal presented to them by Theresa May. The vote will follow a five-day debate.