U.K. Plans ‘Shock and Awe’ Campaign to Prepare Firms for Brexit

The U.K. is planning a “shock and awe” information campaign to prepare companies for Brexit, bidding to reduce economic disruption when Britain completes its split from the European Union at year-end.

From July, the British government intends a burst of activity explaining the consequences and opportunities of Brexit, according to a Cabinet Officedocument. Then, from September to October, it will move to a “shock and awe” phase, focusing on the consequences of not taking preparatory actions, according to the document.

A lack of readiness among businesses for the end of the Brexit transition period is a major concern for the U.K. government: if companies aren’t prepared for new paperwork requirements andred tape, which will apply whether there is a U.K.-EU trade deal or not, there risksborder disruption and goods being held up at ports.

With companies already battered by coronavirus and the U.K. economy heading for its deepest recession in centuries, Prime Minister Boris Johnson can ill-afford adding a man-made economic shock with its largest trading partner to the natural disaster of the pandemic, which has left Britain with one of the highest death tolls in the world.

“We need to frontload preparation wherever possible, and ensure that any early misunderstanding is ironed out and appropriate actions are taken,” the government said in the tender document for the advertising work. “The Transition Campaign is the most important government campaign this year.”

The U.K. has already made a significantconcession to businesses to help them prepare for the final stage of Brexit, giving them a six-month grace period in which to file customs declarations and pay any relevant tariffs on EU imports from the start of 2021. However, the EU is yet to reciprocate the offer, meaning British exporters will still need to file the new paperwork immediately from January onwards.

The government has awarded the 4.5 million-pound advertising contract ($5.6 million), which was first reported by Politico, to MullenLowe London, owned by the Interpublic Group of Companies. The communications campaign is planned to continue into 2021.

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