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Brexit: What’s it all about?

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

In 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU and with widespread uncertainty the team at Packaging Automation began the journey to navigate these unchartered waters and prepare, as far as possible, for what lay ahead.

With a sense of trepidation, the overwhelming feeling was that somehow PA needed to prepare for the change ahead and be ready for any opportunities this post Brexit trade deal and new regulatory landscape would offer.

But what changes were ahead and how can you possibly prepare for the unknown?

Step forward: Shirley Ollier, Project Team Administrator and PA Brexit Queen!

Although it wasn’t until 31st January 2020 that the UK officially left the EU and then, on 1 January 2021, exited the transition period and moved into a new trade agreement with the EU but since 2016, TeamPA, led by Shirley, have been working hard to prepare and with great success.

This is our Brexit story….

As Project Team Administrator, Shirley has, for the last 14 years, managed export shipping at PA, and with extensive knowledge and experience, was best placed to navigate the minefield that was Brexit! In consultation with the management team and key departments including Projects, Service and Spares, Purchasing and I.T., Shirley knew there was a lot to be done and diligently set about learning as much as she could and using her network of contacts to maximum effect.

Shirley was always the first to sign up for any Brexit workshops and courses or information seminars and was always to be seen attending many courses run by the Institute of Export & International Trade. She has also started her Level 2 Customs Compliance qualification with the UK Customs Academy! This course is currently being updated to reflect the changes since 1st January 2021, but it is hoped she can resume the training in the not too distant future.

Whilst Shirley got to work ensuring all relevant paperwork was up to date, EORI numbers were in place, records were accurate, and all the while trying to determine what duties might be payable? What would the documentation need to include to ensure goods did not get stuck at customs? What would be required for duty deferment? – the list was endless.

Shirley also knew that each sales item (and there are over 200,000) would need an individual tariff code and commodity code and weight, therefore all internal systems needed to be updated.

Step forward Alan Henderson (Business Systems Manager) at PA but also known as our IT guru!

Alan’s role was to ensure all systems were Brexit ready and that each sales item (yes, all 200,000 of them) was correctly loaded onto the system with the appropriate codes. All sales items had to be weighed and the weight recorded (both net and gross weight) which did mean we had to invest in new scales for weighing smaller items, as well as the addition of scales to the forklift trucks.

The implications of Brexit were (and are) vast, but Shirley was not phased, after enlisting Alan’s support she moved on to the Finance team – they too had to prepare!

But it wasn’t just TeamPA that needed to be ready, what about our partners overseas? Whilst our international partners prepared themselves for Brexit, Shirley and the team continued to be on hand to support them with any queries they had, after all we were all in the same boat.

Fast forward to February 2021 and all Shirley’s due diligence, attention to detail and hard work has paid off and whilst we, along with many other manufacturers, continue to learn, we are confident that we have done everything we can and to the best of our ability to ensure that delays to customer orders for machines or spares is minimised.

Neil Ashton, MD at Packaging Automation commented:

“Our customers and international partners were at the forefront of Shirley’s mind during this whole process and as a direct result of all her hard work and attention to detail, she has ensured that we continue to do everything possible to prevent any delays - of course, we cannot do anything about COVID-19 and the French going on strike but at least we know we have done everything we can! Well done Shirley!”


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