Publishers face admin and cost burden if no-deal Brexit transpires

Publishers face admin and cost burden if no-deal Brexit transpires

Publishers face a raft of additional admin measures plus extra costs when managing their exports and imports to and from the European Union in the event of a no-deal Brexit on 31st October, the Publishers Association’s Brexit Forum heard yesterday (10th October).

Customs clearance will be the major challenge immediately facing publishers, with cross-border data flows and trademarks also presenting new issues.

Andrew Hood, partner at law firm Fieldfisher, warned publishers that customs delays may affect urgent deliveries, so they should be finding out how well their freight forwarders are prepared to support them. Obtaining a EORI (Economic Operations Registration and Identification) number will be needed if a company has only ever exported to the EU before.  

Christopher Packwood of Geodis Freight Forwarding agreed that publishers should think about their supply chain and talk to suppliers. They should be aware of what constitutes good terms for handling export clearance (in the region of £30; for import clearance, £50), and should be consolidating exports to avoid multiple charges, he said. Some new charges are also to be expected, he warned: “I imagine there may be emergency port charges come November 1st.” Publishers should have their customer service teams standing ready to deal with a surge of queries, Packwood added. “You will get a lot of calls from your haulage companies and freight forwarders.”

Even packaging compliance – the EU requires a certain kind of treated wooden pallets for those who are bringing goods in from an outside country – may cause a problem. “They are ISPM 15 pallets; we’re not sure if there are enough in the UK,” he said. 

In the event of a no-deal, the law around data transfers specifically from the EU or EEA into the UK will change; the UK becomes a “third country” and the free flow of data no longer applies. Fieldfisher’s director for technology Eleanor Duhs told publishers  to map their data flows and prioritise the contracts that really matter, then speak to the EU partners involved; they need to sign up to a Standard Contractual Clause which provides data protection for international transfers. Duhs said: “EU businesses are much less aware of these, you are in a position to lead these discussions.”

Neil Ross, policy manager at Tech UK, noted: “Data flows are one of the least well-known issues [related to Brexit] but GDPR fines can be really heavy. Standard Contractual Clauses are really important.”

Roland Mallinson, IP partner at Taylor Wessing, said EU-registered trademarks would transfer automatically to the UK, with an additional prefix added to their existing number. However going forward, publishers will need to renew UK and EU rights separately, with additional costs involved. If a publisher only has a UK right, it will be “irrelevant” for attempting to block a EU right in the event of a dispute, he noted.   

Long-term, publishers still face decisions with “huge” implications for the industry as regards what position the UK government takes on the “exhaustion” of rights, which governs territory and sales, the forum heard; the ongoing development of copyright law, as the EU and UK courts interpret it in the months following Brexit could also create “significant complexity.” Meanwhile Mallinson warned: “It will be harder to go after infringements of copyright. If you are sueing in the UK, France and Germany, you will have to instigate multiple actions, which will be more expensive. There will be duplication.”  

Throughout the event though there were reminders that a no-deal exit from the EU may not in fact transpire. As Andrew Hood of Fieldfisher put it: “This may be, if we’re lucky as business people, wasted effort.”

The free industry-wide event to help the trade deal with the legal and logistical challenges of a no-deal Brexit was organised after a successful funding application to the Brexit Readiness Fund managed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.