Helping businesses plan for the Brexit effect

Jacqui Tulip joined the Chamber’s international trade team from Lloyds Bank more than a decade ago. She tells Mark Lane that the complex nature of this area means she is still learning new things about trading overseas every day

Jacqui Tulip, international trade facilitation manager with the North East England Chamber of Commerce, thought she knew a lot about cross-border trade before she joined the organisation back in 2006. After all, she had previously spent 21 years in the international trade branch of Lloyds Bank in Newcastle, dealing with everything to do with international trade banking.

A great grounding for a career in international trade at the Chamber one might think but, while there is certainly some truth in that, there can be no substitute for dealing with the day to day nitty-gritty of local exporters.

“I often say now that when I was made redundant in 2005 and came to the Chamber in 2006 I thought I knew a lot about international trade but really, I knew nothing,” she says. “I knew nothing of moving goods around the world and HMRC compliance – the issues that face our exporters and importers every day. Over the last 12 years I have been learning this and I still am!”

At the Chamber, Jacqui delivers training courses focusing on the operational and practical issues involved in exporting, importing, customs procedures and letters of credit. She also answers queries about anything from VAT issues to tariffs, customs duty, export control compliance, Incoterms 2010, rules of origin, export documentation, commodity codes and much more.

It might not sound particularly glamourous but, as any exporter will tell you, these are the issues which one simply has to get right in order to sell goods and services abroad. As such, Jacqui and her colleagues are a vital lifeline for regional businesses engaged in international trade.

Jacqui’s role is varied, and requires the ability to impart often complex knowledge in a way that local businesses can understand. Naturally, Brexit is high on the list of issues businesses are asking about, and it is Jacqui’s role to keep abreast of a picture which is changing day by day.

She says: “Brexit is a massive challenge to most of the businesses I see – it takes up most of my time currently whether it’s meeting companies to discuss implications, reading up on notices and generally keeping up to date with the latest developments in the news. I think many businesses are just waking up to this as a reality, which is a real worry as they should have been looking at what may affect them long before now.”

For many of us, our knowledge of Brexit is completely led by what we see on television and relates to the macroeconomic implications of leaving the EU. But what about the real, practical issues facing exporters – what can Jacqui and her colleagues do to help them?

To illustrate here, Jacqui outlines a typical appointment with a member business to discuss Brexit implications. She says: “They are a small representative sales office of a European parent company and are worried about import tariffs, import declarations and losing their current customers in the UK because of higher costs and bureaucracy.

“They must present several possible solutions to their parent company to mitigate extra costs and allow them to remain competitive. We spend an hour or so talking through options and looking at import duties and discussing VAT implications and changes to Incoterms 2010 – contractual terms which cover the tasks, costs and risks around moving goods from A to B.”

Despite the challenges of Brexit, Jacqui remains passionate about international trade and recognises it as a genuine force
for good in the region. “Research has consistently shown that companies that export are resilient and more successful and stand a better chance of survival when times are tough in the UK market,” she says. “Obviously, it is much better for the country if we export more than we import but currently that is not the case, although the North East does tend to buck the trend in that area.”

Jacqui Tulip