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As events continue to unfold and governments across Europe and further afield start to ease restrictions, we now face this new reality with Covid -19.

Prior to the past three months, Brexit had been the “hot topic” and influenced the development of trade compliance strategies in so many companies. And as a result, it made what was an already booming recruitment market even more so, with companies needing to hire trade compliance experts to deal with the complexities of trading with the UK and the overall impact of Brexit. However, with immediate global challenges, Brexit has been superseded as this virus dominates. Who would have foreseen that such an overwhelming topic as Brexit would have to take a back seat in 2020! We look to explore the impacts Covid-19 has had on trade compliance, how businesses have had to adapt and what it means for career opportunities.

In the last month we have talked to a number of leading in-house Trade Compliance professionals, and the most consistent message we’re hearing is the severe impact that companies now face with their overall supply chain. With various facilities closing and borders being shut, naturally, this has had a serious implication on obtaining products. Companies are struggling to find new suppliers who have the necessary resources, and prices are at an all-time high. Additionally, we are now seeing reduced capacity especially in air freight, which means longer lead times and again, higher prices. As there are little to no passenger aircraft from key locations, businesses are looking at freight only providers which is undoubtedly limiting their options. The alternative? Sea freight. However, this is rarely a solution due to longer time frames.

There has also been a consensus that working from home has had a detrimental effect on the supply chain. Flexible working is of course valuable. However, the abruptness and lack of preparation to suddenly implement working from home has been the issue. Even the simple task of moving goods 40km can take a lot longer because of difficulties in communication between all parties.

Brexit still remains a topic. However, there is a general feeling that this is “postponed” and an attitude of “we can take care of this later on”. This is not only from trade compliance experts but even the UK government have noticeably put this on the back burner. Out of sight, out of mind? If we look at this in simple terms; Covid-19 affects businesses world-wide. Brexit affects businesses trading with the UK. In the grand scheme of things, Brexit, although important, is a small element in comparison to the current global pandemic.

From a recruitment perspective, a lot of companies have implemented a hiring freeze and there are now limitations. Businesses are looking closer at their internal frameworks and necessities in refilling and creating new positions. However, we expect this to gradually change. Although we are seeing problems in the supply, as we slowly start to transition back to “normality”, we will be faced with these same issues on the demand side and the need for more goods. We also know that trade regulations are changing even faster and likely to become more complex. As trade compliance is such a specific topic, we do envisage a rise in the demand for compliance specialists once more. However, like all other aspects of the easing of restrictions around the world, this will certainly be a gradual process.