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Author Archives: British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium

By Yasmine Lingemann

What to Expect?


The Programme:

Sponsorship:


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Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period.

See our website here for more details on how we can help you: https://www.britishchamber.be/

By Yasmine Lingemann

IN BRIEF:

  • VAT will now be collected at the point of sale instead of at the point of importation. 
  • This means that non-UK retailers who are selling goods directly to a UK consumer with a sale value of less than €150 (£135) must:  
    • Register for UK VAT with HMRC  
    • Collect UK VAT from the consumer 
    • File VAT returns 
    • Send VAT to HMRC 
  • The EU are also implementing their own VAT system in July 2021 – where non-EU sellers must register once for the whole EU market.  

WHAT IS THE IMPACT ON BUSINESS?

While organisations would have welcomed the trade deal between the U.K. and EU, signed on December 30, 2020, it came so close to the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020 that many had insufficient time to fully understand its implications on their activities before it took effect. As people return to work their focus will now be on understanding what changes have taken place as a result of Brexit and the terms of the deal. The economic repercussions of Brexit have been challenging to many, so it is very important businesses familiarise themselves with the changes, so to benefit the most in this difficult time.

Much has been written in the press about how these VAT changes make life more difficult for non-UK businesses. However, if those businesses were already making sales valued at more than £70,000 a year into the UK they would have already been VAT registered and charging UK VAT to customers.  If the packages being delivered are under £135 in value there will be no import VAT or duty to pay and hence, their situation will remain largely unchanged save for the need to complete customs declarations.

For businesses that were not already UK VAT registered and have packages valued at more than £135 or sell via OMP, the position is more complicated.  To determine what your obligations are we would recommend reviewing the following questions:

1. What is the value of my package?
2. If selling via an OMP will you met the conditions for them to take on your obligations to account for UK VAT?
3. If your packages are going to be over £135, what will the customer experience be like if they have to pay extra import costs in addition to your charge?
4. If packages are over £135, will any duties be payable?

Generally, most of the UK’s VAT rules applicable to organisations providing services remain unchanged post Brexit. Specifically, there were no widespread changes to the place of supply provisions (rules that determine the country in which VAT is paid) or rates of VAT. However, changes were made in other areas, and it’s important you familiarise yourself with these changes so that you don’t lose out as a business.

For example, EU retailers sending packages to the UK now need to fill out customs declaration forms. Shoppers may also have to pay customs or VAT charges, depending on the value of the product and where it came from. However, customs charges are the responsibility of the customer, not the retailer, who often has no idea of how much the eventual extra cost might be. They cannot be paid in advance and are levied only when the item reaches the UK.

The end of the Brexit withdrawal period has resulted in many UK VAT rule changes, and organisations will need to adapt to new VAT accounting arrangements. We recommend  that organisations review their sales and purchase transactions and administrative processes to ensure that any changes to the VAT rules have been identified. This will help guard against unexpected costs.

We are here to help you. Head over to our new website here, where you can find support in our Brexit Hub, and get in contact with us or our network to make sure you adapt to these new changes successfully.

THE FACTS:

VAT on GOODS COMING INTO THE UK: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/eu-business-exporting-to-the-uk

UK VAT registered businesses importing goods into the UK are able to account for import VAT on their VAT return, rather than paying import VAT on or soon after the time that the goods arrive at the UK border. This applies to imports from the EU and non-EU countries. 

However, customs declarations and the payment of any other duties are still required. Customs duty (tariffs) applies to some goods and excise duties continue to apply to tobacco, alcohol and certain energy products. Customs and excise duty payments can be deferred to be settled monthly with a duty deferment account. Businesses need to register with HMRC to open a duty deferment account and will need to provide a bank guarantee.

Since 1 January 2021, VAT on imported goods with a value of up to £135 is collected at the point of sale not the point of importation. This means that UK supply VAT, rather than import VAT, are due on these consignments.

Online marketplaces (OMPs) involved in facilitating the sale of imported goods, are responsible for collecting and accounting for the VAT, even when the goods are in the UK at the point of sale.

For goods sent from overseas and sold directly to UK consumers, the overseas seller is required to register and account for the VAT to HMRC. Overseas sellers also remain responsible for accounting for the VAT on goods in the UK when sold directly to UK consumers.

Business-to-business sales not exceeding £135 in value are also be subject to the new rules. However, where the business customer is VAT registered and provides its registration number to the seller, the VAT will be accounted for by the customer by means of a reverse charge. 

AT THE UK BORDER:

Fiscal compliance checks at the UK border include checks to confirm the correct valuation for goods declared at import. Current requirements for importers and agents to assure the completeness and correctness of declarations will remain. Systems should be extended to cover EU imports with a view to identifying false information from consignors, to assure HMRC that clear anomalies can be pulled out from the high scale of declaration volumes typically handled. In particular, importers and agents will need to ensure their systems can identify consignments that are outside the scope of the new arrangements and thus remain liable to import VAT.

Vigilance around consignment valuation will continue, but with more focus on the declaration boundary at £135 or less for this policy. Systems will need to identify excise goods and goods being sent by one private individual to another, which are outside the scope of the new arrangements.

VAT ON GOODS COMING OUT OF THE UK: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/eu-business-importing-from-the-uk

Check with your EU country’s customs authority about the rules for sending goods to the UK from the EU. Make sure you talk to your trading partners in the UK to:

  • agree responsibilities
  • make sure you have the correct paperwork for the type of goods you are trading

You must make sure you have completed the necessary border requirements.

There will be no substantive change for the movement of goods between Northern Ireland and member states of the EU, including Ireland.


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is bccblinksmall_400x400.jpg

Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period.

See our website here for more details on how we can help you: https://www.britishchamber.be/


A Word From The Chair

This group will seek to cover the three areas of sustainability:

  1. Environmental
  2. Social: Health & Well-being
  3. Economic 

With this group, we aim to empower you to act. We will discuss issues related to the running of sustainable businesses, from practical tips for small steps you can take on a in your daily activity, to how to improve the effectiveness of your company’s sustainability goals. The SAG will become the platform to share experiences, learn from best practices and debate everything from practical examples to policy actions required to improve sustainability throughout. We will seek to create understanding and awareness of sustainability from concept to implementation.

Watch as we have five minutes with Tania Pencheva, Chair of the BritCham Sustainability Action Group.

Are You Looking For New, Sustainable Business Practices?

Getting used to home working? Excited to go back to the office? Looking for the perfect equilibrium? From home, from the office or from any place on our planet… we have solutions for you! 

Did you know about TooGoodToGo? This very user-friendly App will help you to get the leftovers at a competitive price from any restaurant, cafe, hotel breakfasts, etc…Or in the same idea, go for shopping for food at half price to fight against food wastage with Happy Hours Market making good use of leftovers from supermarkets (Carrefour, Delhaize, Colruyt, Färmz, etc…) For both initiatives you just need to download the app, book the product that you want to buy and grab them in the closest distribution point.

Take the opportunity of having less people in the offices to make some changes:

  • Install LED lights everywhere.
  • Think about turning off the heating and the lights where there are empty office spaces.
  • Conduct a full cleaning of your the offices and offer a hygienic and healthy environment to your employees when they will be back! Think about the furniture, the carpets and even the air! Contact Composil Europe or Breezo Air for some ideas.
  • Think about your Mobility planning. Physical presence might have changed. The expectations and needs of employees definitely have changed. Take these opportunities to rethink the fleet management inside your enterprise. Ask MyMove or Skipr for some help! 

On an individual scale, here are some simple things you can apply everyday:

  • Install Ecosia as your search engine on your computer in order to plant trees each time you make a search.
  • Unsubscribe to newsletters you don’t read, they take up space on servers that consume energy for nothing.

As a bonus to minimise your carbon footprint, share these simple ideas to your colleagues so that they can make the same effort as you for a responsible way of living and a safer planet. 

Find out how you can you get involved by contacting Melanie Barker at melanie.barker@britcham.eu for more information.

Start 2021 right with our first event ‘Re-Imagining the Workplace’ with Harry Gaskell, Head of LTV, Purpose and Sustainability at Ernst & Young.

This event will be introduced by the CEO of BritCham, Daniel Dalton and the Sustainability Action Group leadership, Tania Pencheva and Noemie de Crombrugghe. This will be followed by the keynote from Harry Gaskell and a Q&A session.

Harry has over 30 years consulting experience focused on helping organisations make major changes to their business, culture or organisation. He will provide thought leadership along with practical tips towards the workplace post-Covid and expectations from leadership and companies going forward. Register for the event here.

Who should attend?
Business leaders in medium and large companies. International companies. individuals and corporates interested in implementing and improving their Sustainable working practices.

This event is open to the Chamber network and is free to attend.

On 18 November, The British Chamber of Commerce EU & Belgium brought together a high-level group of industry experts and scientists as well as representatives from the European Commission and MEPs to discuss
how effective action on cancer prevention offers the best path for a successful Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan.

The event outlined concrete steps the EU and European stakeholders can take to tackle preventable cancers. The workshop involved a broad range of presentations from industry and scientific experts on their fields of expertise, followed by a panel discussion on the presentations and questions from the floor.

Throughout the discussion, a key theme was the role that public and private sector cooperation can play in targeting the 40% of cancer cases that are preventable.

Harm reduction policies that help tackle addiction and protect workers from carcinogens in the workplace emerged as a potentially enormously useful part of the Cancer Plan’s pillar on prevention.

Dan Dalton, CEO of the British Chamber of Commerce Belgium, said: “I am delighted that we managed to bring together such an impressive group of stakeholders, policymakers and experts from across the EU.

Clearly, there is room for an unprecedented amount of cooperation between public and private stakeholders in the fight against cancer in Europe. Innovation focused on harm reduction and prevention is paramount and will benefit the world for generations to come.

This workshop has left no doubt in my mind that if we work together and think beyond boundaries, we can take significant steps against preventable cancers to ease the burden of the disease across the
continent.”

Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. 
We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period. Click here to register: https://www.britishchamber.be/upcoming-events

By Yasmine Lingemann

The COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, and now more than ever, we are learning the ever-increasing importance of an efficient, fair, and accessible digitalised education. A study done by Deloitte found that 75% of teachers believe that digital education content will totally replace printed textbooks within the next 10 years. Now is the time to brush up on your digital skills and prepare for a new wave of education.

On the 25th of November 2020, we were delighted to be joined by Ms Antoaneta Angelova-Krasteva who is the Director for Innovation, International Cooperation and Sport at DG EAC. She gave a detailed presentation on the aims and challenges for digitalising education in the future. Yes, some of these challenges existed before the pandemic, but now that we are forced to do everything online, digital competences are about equipping every member of society with the appropriate skills to be able to take advantage of these new digital opportunities.

The good news is that 62% of respondents to the DG EAC survey reported that their digital skills had increased, and half of the respondents plan to continue to improve them after the crisis ends. Online and blended training was the most popular tool for improving these digital skills. More work still needs to be done, as digital skills become more important in the labour market. Enabling digital connectivity for schools was a top priority with high-quality digital content and user-friendly tools seen as vital for improving the digitalisation of education. It is clear that these tools should also respect privacy and ethical standards in order for people to trust in the digital evolution.

Furthermore, the enhancement of digital skills and knowledge is another priority. Fostering further knowledge on new technology, such as AI, is seen as crucial in enabling the technology further. Also stated was that public-private partnership is important in helping to advance digital skills. The Digital Education Action Plan has set ambitious visions for the next 7 years with the focus on effective use of digital technologies for teaching and learning.

Bridging the Gender Digital Divide by encouraging and facilitating women’s participation in STEM is paramount, as is narrowing the digital divide between rich and poor. We are all expected to keep up with the ever integral digital world, though many are not starting on a level playing field. In order for us all to reap the benefits and use digitalised education for the greater good, funding towards giving under-represented groups the tools, resources, and opportunities must be prioritised.

To finish, the COVID-19 crisis is a turning point for the use of technology in education (up by 95%), and in response, online training is expected to be the most popular tool for improving digital skills and competences. Digital literacy is listed as the top digital skill of the 21st century though the deepening socioeconomic inequalities and creation of new divides is to be addressed and prioritised as a main concern.

At BritCham, our recently launched Digital Working Group reflects the ever-growing importance of these issues, and will help ensure that the we continues to play an active and visible role in the digital policymaking debate which is currently taking place in Brussels, in the UK and globally, helping businesses and traders navigate this complex and rapidly evolving environment to seize the new opportunities that will arise. We look forward to continuing to take part in this important discussion, and encourage you to join us in future events on releated digital topics such as our upcoming event on: Big data: risks or opportunities for Europe? Learning the lessons from social media personal identity profiling: With Eva Kaili MEP.


BRITCHAM SUPPORT
Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period. Click here to register:
 https://www.britishchamber.be/upcoming-events

The most up-to-date advice and FAQ’s for UK and Belgium Employer-Employee issues post-January 2021. Advice subject to these issues not being revised as part of the ongoing negotiations.

For more information, contact Daniel Dalton Chief Executive of BritCham EU & Belgium at daniel.dalton@britcham.eu or Hugues Thibaut Head of Public Affairs SD Worx at hugues.thibaut@sdworx.com

Advice before 1st January 2021:

For British citizens in Belgium

Employees that have worked in Belgium and have a residence permit: Can they continue to work and live as before?

British citizens who already lived in Belgium before 1 January 2021 still have an E or E+ card and do not have to take any steps themselves. The Office for Foreigners will call them to issue them with an M card by the end of 2021. British citizens may continue to work here without applying for a single permit.

British Citizen employees that have a family member who has lived in Belgium for a while and has an F or F+ card: Can they continue to work and live as before? 

Yes, this person may continue to live and work here. The Office for Foreigners will issue them with an M card. By the end of 2021, all family members should have this new residence document.

British employees that live in Belgium for work, and return home for weekends: What should they do?

They must request an Annex 15 from the municipality where they work. In 2021, the employee will have this converted into an N card. They may continue to work here without applying for a single permit. 

British employees that only work in Belgium, but take the Eurostar to and from the United Kingdom every day: What should they do?

They should request an Annex 15 from the municipality where they work as soon as possible- this will also be converted into an N card. They may continue to work here without applying for a single permit. 

British employees that have an Annex 15: Do they need a single permit/work permit to work in Belgium in 2021? 

No, they do not need a single permit/work permit. They did not need this in the past either.

British employees that have already been seconded during the transition period, which will continue after 31 December 2020: Will they continue to be covered by British social security?

Yes, they may continue to be covered by United Kingdom social security. As long as the situation continues without interruption, they will be covered by United Kingdom social security. Without interruption does not necessarily only refer to secondment. If simultaneous employment follows the secondment, this will also be without interruption. The British government will continue to issue A1 documents for these situations.

British employees that have been working in Belgium 3 days a week and in the United Kingdom 2 days a week for a number of years under British social security with an A1 simultaneous employment that is allocated for a year: Can they extend it?

Yes, as long as their situation continues without interruption, they may continue to be covered by British social security. The British government will continue to issue A1 documents for these situations.

Belgians in the United Kingdom

Employees that have been living and working in the United Kingdom for some time: Can they still live and work there as before? 

They have until 30 June 2021 to request a settled or pre-settled status. This status allows them to continue living and working in the United Kingdom. By requesting a settled or pre-settled status, they indemnify the following rights:

  • Access to the National Health Service.
  • The option to continue living and working in the United Kingdom.

Employees that only work in the United Kingdom, living there from Monday to Friday: What should they do?

They have until 30 June 2021 to request a settled or pre-settled status. This status allows them to live and work in the United Kingdom. 

Employees that only work in the United Kingdom, but take the Eurostar to and from Belgium every day: What should they do?
From 1 July 2021, he must have a valid frontier work permit and a valid passport to work in the United Kingdom. Until 1 July 2021, they may continue to use their passport to work in the United Kingdom. The British government is still working on a procedure to apply for this work permit. 

Employee’s secondment period ends on 31 January 2021, and will be extended for one year: Will they continue to be covered by Belgian social security?

 Yes, as long as their situation continues without interruption, they may continue to be covered by Belgian social security. The Belgian government will continue to issue A1 documents for these situations.

Employees that have been working in Belgium and in the United Kingdom for a number of years under Belgian social security, and have A1 simultaneous employment which is allocated for a year: Can they extend it?

Yes, as long as the situation continues without interruption, they may continue to be covered by Belgian social security. The Belgian government will continue to issue A1 documents for these situations.

Advice from the 1st January 2021

For British citizens to Belgium

Does a British citizen living and working in Flanders/Brussels/Wallonia/German-speaking Community for more than 90 days need a single permit?

Yes. The place of employment determines in which region the employment must apply for the single permit.

Does a British citizen travelling to Belgium have to have a visa to work here for less than 90 days?

No, British citizens are exempt from the visa requirement. The employee must be able to prove to customs why they are travelling to Belgium with an invitation or work permit. Customs may ask for any supporting documents such as a hotel reservation.

Does a British citizen who comes to work in Flanders/Brussels/Wallonia/German-speaking Community for less than 90 days within a period of 180 days need a work permit or a single permit?

Yes. The place of employment determines in which region the employer must apply for the work permit. 

Does a British citizen who stays in Belgium to work for less than 90 days need a Belgian residence document?

  • Hotel: If the British employee is staying in a hotel, they do not have to register with the municipality. Their British passport is sufficient.
  • Apartment/house: If a British citizen rents a house in Belgium, they must register with the municipality. They will then receive an Annex 3 or an Annex 15 as a frontier worker.

A British employer is temporarily seconding a British employee to Belgium (100% employment): Will they continue to be covered by British social security?

This situation has not yet been resolved and is part of the negotiations. If there is no agreement, British citizens can come to Belgium for 52 weeks under British social security. If they stay for longer, this situation must be assessed further.

A British employee works in Belgium 3 days a week and in the United Kingdom for 2 days a week: Where do they have to pay their social security contributions?

This situation has not yet been resolved and is part of the negotiations. We will update as we have more news. If there is no agreement, British citizens may be socially insured in Belgium and the UK.

A British employee lives in Belgium and also works in the Netherlands and Belgium: Does the European Social Security Regulation still apply to them?

Yes, this regulation also applies to nationals of non-member countries, including British citizens. You can also apply these European rules to the employment situation of the British employee.

For Belgian Citizens to the United Kingdom

Does a Belgian travelling to the United Kingdom need a visa to work there?

In certain cases, they do not need a visa to travel to the United Kingdom for professional reasons. For example, if they attend meetings or negotiate contracts. In other cases, visas are required regardless of the duration of work in the United Kingdom.

An employee lives and only works in the United Kingdom for a British employer: What do I need to do?

The employee must apply for a specific visa based on points. Only employees who can demonstrate sufficient points may still enter the United Kingdom. The British Government allocates points based on the skills, qualification and income of Belgians. The employee must score at least 70 points to be able to work in the United Kingdom. This will be the case, for example, if they:

  • Have already received a job offer from a British employer (20 points).
  • Are highly qualified (20 points).
  • Have a minimum annual salary of currently £25,600 (20 points).
  • Can speak English (10 points).

In addition, the British employer must act as a sponsor.

An employee only works and lives in the United Kingdom: What do I need to do?

They must have a visa. In order to obtain a visa, they must have a recognised British company as a sponsor. If there is no recognised British company, it will be difficult to employ a Belgian in the United Kingdom. A Belgian company should have a British branch or establishment on British territory.

I am temporarily sending my employee to our United Kingdom sister company to carry out an assignment: What needs to be done?

The employee will apply for an Intra-company transfer visa and the company will act as a sponsor. Unless the employee earns £73,900 or more per year and working for you for at least 12 months.

I am seconding my employee temporarily (100% employment) to the United Kingdom: Will they continue to be covered by Belgian social security?

The situation has not yet been resolved and is part of the negotiations. If there is no agreement, you can second the employee to the UK under Belgian social security for six months. The six-month period may be extended once for a further six months. If they stay for longer, the situation must be assessed further.

My employee works in Belgium 3 days a week and in the United Kingdom for 2 days a week: Where do they have to pay their social security contributions?

The situation has not yet been resolved and is part of the negotiations. If there is no agreement, Belgian citizens run the risk of being socially insured in Belgium and the United Kingdom.

I am sending an employee to our British branch whose secondment will last a number of years and they do not want to lose their Belgian social security: What are their options?

If covered under British social security is not sufficient for the employee, the employee can still join the Overseas Social Security scheme.


BRITCHAM SUPPORT
Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period. Click here to register: 
https://www.britishchamber.be/upcoming-events

By Madeline Reynolds

In just over 50 days, the UK/EU transition period will end and the U.K. will leave the EU single market and customs union. This will happen even if a deal is agreed between the two before the end of the year. As a result, all businesses that trade between the EU and the UK will face significant changes in how they do business. Businesses will therefore need to ensure they adhere to a vastly changed legislative framework, which will include new customs procedures and paperwork, in addition to significantly more restrictive labour and immigration rules, including visas and work permits, even for relatively short work assignments in the European Union.


This will be the case even if a deal is agreed, however, if no deal is forthcoming, UK businesses will see their trade with the EU relying on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. The consequences of leaving on these terms will mean that there will be no preferential base for trading with the EU, and therefore tariffs and a far wider range of non-tariff barriers to trade will be introduced, significantly hampering the ability to place goods produced in Britain on the EU market or EU produced goods on the British market. 

As a result, the British government is urging businesses to ensure they are fully prepared for these changes, which will arrive in just over 50 days time. Whilst the UK government will introduce a phased approach to the new border regime, the EU will not, and therefore British exporters will need to be ready from day one.

There are some basic steps that all export businesses can take now to ensure that they can continue trading into Europe in 2021. For example, the most important is that companies will be prohibited to move goods in and out of EU territory without an Economic Operations Registration and Identification (EORI) number. EORI numbers are existing registration procedures, but they are now needed in the when making customs declarations from third countries – in this case, trading between the UK and EU. Your number can be obtained through www.gov.uk/eori.


Those selling manufactured goods may have to comply with new labelling and approved testing and should seek guidance to ensure their products are compatible with EU legislation from January 1st. All food placed on the EU market from 1 January 2021 will have to meet EU rules.

For companies using and storing personal data, in the absence of a trade deal,  they will need to demonstrate that the data is stored and processed in line with EU rules. This will apply to companies processing EU citizens personal data. The ICO provides the most up-to-date information regarding post-transition period data adequacy and collection and in the absence of an adequacy deal, companies will most likely need to rely on Standard Contractual Clauses (SCC).


The British government have announced an updated Border Operating Model that will require a passport for travel into the United Kingdom as identity cards will begin to be phased out as accepted identification at UK borders by October 2021. Those travelling frequently between both territories on a National ID card should begin to seek a passport so travel is not interrupted.

This documentation will need to be provided by hauliers, alongside a new Kent Access Permit for cross-channel HGV’s – which are access permits that allow lorry drivers crossing the Channel into Kent and into UK territory. This is designed to minimise the disruption that is expected to be caused by vehicles which enter the Channel ports without the correct documentation.

Both the European Union and the United Kingdom will impose full goods control on freight that arrives without the correct documentation. Importing into the United Kingdom from the European Union will become more complicated. Imports will now require your EORI number and businesses must begin to obtain their EORI numbers as soon as possible to ensure there is sufficient time for it to be processed and ready for use.

Value Added Tax (VAT) will also need to be paid on imported goods from Europe. However, Businesses will be now able to account for import VAT on their VAT return – known as postponed accounting – rather than paying VAT when goods arrive at the UK border. From January 1st, when selling to EU consumers, UK businesses will be able to zero-rate sales of most goods to EU consumers. In addition, businesses will not be required to complete EC sales lists, however, evidence of the sale will still need to be retained.

So in just over 50 days, we will see the biggest change to U.K./ European trade in a lifetime. To successfully weather these changes, businesses will need to prepare and adapt. 


BRITCHAM SUPPORT
Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period. Click here to register:
 https://www.britishchamber.be/upcoming-events


UK

As a wave of infections sweeps back over Europe, many of its countries are forced to reintroduce restrictions on work, leisure and education.

England is set to endure a month of restrictions, beginning Thursday 5th November until Wednesday 2nd December, similar to European countries such as France and Germany that also announced national restrictions in response to a surge in infections. This comes as a result of revised health projections that reflect stark warnings of hospital beds filling rapidly and deaths expected to increase.

Across the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are following their own restrictions. Northern Ireland has extended its school break for an additional week (totalling two weeks) and bars and restaurants are closed for four weeks. Wales has been following a ‘fire-break lockdown’ which is due to end today. People will be able to form household bubbles again and meet in pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants when Wales’ restrictions end.

Scotlands measures are in effect from today and include a 5-tiered system. Each borough has currently been graded between levels 1-3, with level 3 areas including Glasgow and Edinburgh. As a result, over half of Scotlands population is placed in tier 3 which means alcohol will not be permitted to be sold indoors or outdoors in hospitality, all hospitality settings are required to close by 6pm and people advised on not leaving their local area.

In England, all non-essential shops such as restaurants, gyms, places of worship, entertainment and beauty facilities will all have to close on Thursday for one month. People will be told explicitly to stay at home with the exception of work which cannot be done from home, outdoor exercise, essential shopping and education. People will be allowed to meet one other person from another household outside in a public place but not in their homes or gardens. Conversely to Belgian rules, schools in England will remain open.

The United Kingdom reports 18,950 new cases in 24h with a total of 1,053,864 cases since the epidemic broke out. This Monday November 2, 2020, 136 deaths in 24h, leading to a total of 46,853 deaths have been reported. England is about to go back into lockdown until December 1, and other European countries are making always stricter measures to try and stop the new Covid-19 rise. 


BELGIUM

Belgium went into a second ‘reinforced’ lockdown on Monday 2nd November, due to continue to the 13th of December at the very least. Like in England, half term holidays have been extended til the 15th November. Restrictions vary between the Brussels-Capital, Flemish and Walloon regions. Curfews and mask regulations differ as follows: In the Brussels-Capital Region, there is a curfew from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM and a mask must be worn at all times. For Flanders, the curfew is midnight to 5:00 AM and a mask but be worn on public transport, in busy places, and on streets where local authorities made it mandatory. Lastly for Wallonia, the curfew is from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM and a mask must be worn on public transport, in busy places, and on streets where local authorities made it mandatory.

Shops deemed non-essential have closed, and social gatherings outlawed. Restaurants, bars and cafes are closed, with takeaway running until 10pm. All higher education will now be online, and teleworking is mandatory unless it is not possible.  

Belgium has the highest rate of coronavirus infections in Europe. The country has been struggling to come up with a unified and coordinated approach to the pandemic, and has been juggling the economic interests of the north of the country with the situation in southern Wallonia, the worst-hit region.

Belgium reports – as of November 2 – 11,789 new cases have been reported in 24 hours taking it up to a total of 441,018 cases, as hospitalisations are peaking like for the first wave. There have been 108 deaths in 24 hours, taking it to a total of 11,737 deaths. Belgium is following France and is placed back into lockdown stating for a month, from Monday November 2 to December 13, with assessment on December 1.


Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period.

See our website here for more details on how we can help you: https://www.britishchamber.be/

By Elizabeth Gull

This year the death of George Floyd jolted not just America but the world and inspired the Black Lives Matter protests. During the protests a quote by @lifewcourt resonated with me on this issue:

“I’m not black, but I see you
I’m not black, but I hear you
I’m not black, but I mourn with you
I’m not black, but I will fight for you”

I want to continue to fight because this issue does not stop when it’s no longer viral.

Diversity is often talked about as an ideal world scenario and then pushed to the bottom of the list when other commitments take precedent. This is especially true at the moment because it is hard for companies to prioritise diversity when COVID has caused many businesses across a range of sectors to struggle for survival, and HR departments have been preoccupied with the task of ensuring the safety of employees through social distancing and PPE.

This October marked Black History Month, a period to reflect on the narratives that have shaped Black culture. So in this article I want to highlight something that often gets lost in conversation, which is that diversity matters for more reasons than simply to keep things fair. Diversity is good for business.  A McKinsey study, which is linked below in the crowd sourcing section, proved this when it found that ethnically diverse companies were 35% more likely to outperform those in the bottom quartile for diversity. This report underscores the importance of focusing on increasing the representation of voices around the table and layering that with a culture where people feel safe to use their voices authentically and fully contribute their ideas.

It is clear that having a diverse and inclusive environment is the smart thing to do for your company, so here are some practical measures that can help create a diverse and inclusive work environment:

Crowd sourcing solutions from our members.

Here are some picks from our Diversity & Inclusion Committee who have shared with us the books, films and podcasts that have impacted them on this issue:

  1. Read the McKinsey report Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters  which shows that the most diverse companies are now more likely than ever to outperform less diverse peers on profitability.
  2. Listen to the Intersectionality Matters! podcast which is hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw and looks at the reality of race and gender bias to show that if you’re standing in the path of multiple forms of exclusion, you’re likely to get hit by both.
  3. Head to the BBC to watch The Unwanted: The Secret Windrush Files where presenter David Olusoga uncovers a story of racial prejudice at the highest levels of government, exploring how the Windrush Scandal was rooted in buried events that happened 70 years ago.

The UK is a place where we are free to have these conversations and celebrate diversity. For instance, if you want to be inspired by some of the positive things that British people have done to inspire others to explore their heritage then this article on ‘five projects shining a light on black culture in the UK’ is a really nice read.

Moreover, there are many people in the UK who have succeeded despite the challenges. Following the 2019 General Election, 65 or 10% of Members of the House of Commons were from ethnic minority backgrounds and the number of MPs from ethnic minority backgrounds has increased at each general election since 1987. There is still more progress to be made in Parliament, because if the ethnic make-up of the Commons reflected that of the UK population there would be about 93 Members from ethnic minority backgrounds. However, the progress that we have made should be celebrated and if you would like to find out more about ethnic diversity in politics and public life, click here.

If you would to learn about the wider global context, here are some resources from outside of the UK:

  1. Stream Dear White People on Netflix, a series that follows a group of students of colour at a predominantly white university to highlight the issues that still plague today’s ‘post-racial’ society.
  2. Read What Should White People Do? by Linda Martin Alcoff who explores white attempts to move towards a proactive position against racism that will amount to more than self-criticism.

Measure your progress.

Ensuring diversity in the workplace is a journey that we learn as we go from others ahead of ourselves on the journey. Nobody has it 100% right. Following on from that, it always helps to be able to reflect on how far you’ve come, so commit to goals at board level and track your progress which will help to prove success.

One such goal could be to tackle subconscious preconceptions. These preconceptions can have a negative impact on your business, especially in the recruitment process as the candidates best positioned to help your company grow may be overlooked. The first step to avoid this is to be aware of it which could mean providing training to help your employees learn how to think more openly and so get a better understanding of a person’s professional capacity so that skin colour is not the deciding factor in who gets hired and instead the best person for the job is the one who gets it.

This requires challenging people’s assumptions. In an interview some examples of how to do this would be to cover up the names on resumes, set up diverse interview panels, and ask every candidate the same questions.

Other goals include setting up a Diversity and Inclusion Committee and meeting regularly to have open discussions both about what may need to be improved and also about what your company does well for diversity. This article is for Black History Month and so talks particularly about issues of ethnic diversity, however it is important to discuss all forms of diversity such as gender, class and age etc.

As you increase diversity, celebrate it!

Often those who don’t have a role model will not put themselves forward for jobs or promotions, so make sure to encourage mentoring from those in leadership positions so that they can become the cultural role models who inspire others.

In Britain, we are lucky enough to have phenomenal black role models: Mo Farah, the most successful British track athlete in modern Olympic Games history, John Stewart, first black British male MP, Cynthia Erivo, first black British actress to be nominated for an Oscar award- the list goes on. Yet, more needs to be done to make this list known, and to allow it to keep expanding.

It is also important to embrace the diversity of thought that comes hand in hand with an inclusive workplace. Assembling a team that acts and thinks in the same way is often fairly easy to do, and in such teams consensus will be reached on most issues without much debate. However, unless all your customers also think the same it is a difficult task to grow your business with this homogenous workforce. You want to create an environment where people feel their input is valued, even if it goes against the way you would normally expect things to be done, because through this your business can discover new ways of doing things and successfully lead through change.

We are not trying to point fingers. We are by no means perfect. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. However, establishing diversity and inclusion measures in your workplace is not only the right thing to do, but will also infinitely benefit your business, too.

Think you are embracing diversity of thought? Take the diversity of thought assessment by the Glenn Llopis Group here to find out.

Finally, at the British Chamber of Commerce | EU & Belgium we would love to hear from you. If you have had any experiences as a business with these issues then feel free to leave a comment or send an email to eucommittee@britishchamber.eu to let us know your strategies for overcoming them.


Here at the British Chamber of Commerce, we will continue to update you with the necessary information to help all our members to succeed. We are all in this together, and with the right plans in place, consumer confidence can be restored. BritCham offers support, guidance and specialised coverage for both Brexit and COVID-19, including webinars, workshops and events that will give your firm the tools it needs to navigate through this challenging period.
See our website here for more details on how we can help you: https://www.britishchamber.be/