Supply Chain Risk Management Blog

The Brexit case for proactive supply chain changes

EU vote has brought risks, but also opportunities. It’s time for a review.

Brexit is among the factors pushing supply chain risks to a three-year high, according to a new survey. The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply quarterly Risk Index is up one point on last quarter, and up almost two on last year to reach 80.8 (out of 100).

Two months on from the EU referendum, however, we’re actually little closer to knowing what Brexit will mean.

With the government still not invoking Article 50 (despite some pressure), negotiations for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU have yet to even begin. Theresa May has said it will not be triggered this year, and there is “idle chatter” of further delays – perhaps until after the French and German elections in May and September, respectively.

In the absence of those negotiations, we’ve no way of knowing the likelihood of any of the various options: whether we’ll end up with someone similar to Norway’s membership of the EEA or an entirely new arrangement – a “special status”.

In one sense, then, we’re no further on than when we last looked at this issue. Yet, the intervening period has been useful in a couple of respects.

Supply chain risks sooner rather than later

First, it’s shown us that some of the more dire speculation about the impact of Brexit was just that. Both unemployment and retail sales figures have so far confounded the doom-mongers. There’s no guarantee that will last, but it makes it clear that predictions about the impact from Brexit are unreliable.

It also makes it clear that there’s still time to make changes to respond to a new environment. But that window could close soon.

For many, the risks need to be monitored closely well before the final parting. As a recent report by Credit Suisse makes clear, for instance, many UK exports are not goods being sold to consumers but components used by EU manufacturers’ products. Those EU producers are likely to be reviewing their supply chains now, even if you are not.

“Indeed, the risk is that the current uncertainty surrounding the UK’s membership of the EU may be sufficient for some EU companies to slowly shift sourcing parts of their value chains away from the UK. As such, the negative effects on UK export demand may occur sooner rather than later,” the report notes.

Making the most of Brexit

But Brexit also presents opportunities. Whether it forces you to or not, Brexit probably should change your supply chain – or at least make you consider changes. A lot of companies have taken this to heart, with a survey of retailers by Barclays showing many looking to new sources.

In fact, the Brexit vote – like any big change – is a prompt to review the supply chain to check its robustness and its efficiency, because where there are risks, there are also often opportunities. It’s better to try to address both early on.

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