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Businesses in Wales may not be Brexit ready after impact of COVID-19 warns leading accountancy firm

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With under a month to go until the UK leaves the EU, one of Wales’ leading independent accountancy and financial planning firms is warning that many small to medium-sized businesses in Wales may not be Brexit-ready after firefighting COVID-19 for most of the year.

Bevan Buckland LLP, which has five offices across South-west Wales, is urging SMEs – the family businesses that are the backbone of the Welsh economy – to get ready for the new landscape that Brexit will bring in just a matter of weeks or potentially face dire consequences.

Harri Lloyd-Davies, from Bevan Buckland LLP, said: “It is understandable that Brexit preparations have taken a back seat for many business owners in Wales in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. But it is vital that they now turn their attention back to Brexit, since the transition period ends on December 31 and we will all be operating under a new system, with new responsibilities and regulations coming into force on January 1. Companies in Wales that have managed to survive and even thrive under the impact of COVID-19 should do all they can to avoid being impacted by any regulatory and economic shockwaves Brexit may cause.”

Just this week the ONS (Office for National Statistics) found that just nine per cent of business in the UK felt they had prepared for the post-Brexit landscape, with 10 per cent not sure if they had done so.

Harri continued: “Many firms in Wales, which do not import, export or interact with our European neighbours, may feel that the changes may not be very impactful to them, but there will still be implications that they have not considered. Being prepared and well-informed is crucial if you want your operations to continue unhindered in what is already a very tricky landscape due to the pandemic.  A major consideration should be any impact on supply and distribution chains, either through increased regulatory requirements or physical delays and impacts to transport capacity.  We are already getting feedback from clients who are seeing their supply chains being impacted by the increased demand on UK port capacity.

“There are also major unknowns – something no businessperson welcomes – not least that we do not yet know if there will be a deal or no deal between the UK and the EU. However, we do know there aresignificant changes ahead for travel and trade. And we can prepare for these. Businesses should be using the government resources out there to help business owners prepare and if you are concerned, it is important to seek tailored professional advice to drill down into the implications for your business.”

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Points to consider, says Harri, include general business preparationswith the Government’s Brexit transition website – www.gov.uk/transition – being the first port of call for general advice. If you trade with the EU then you must register for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI). And businesses should be aware that export rules are specific, sector by sector, so again, the Government website can help with a personalised list of action that firms need to take.

Businesses that export must also familiarise themselves with customs declarations as these will be essential for accounting for VAT. Similarly, if your business relies on EU or other non-UK workers, new rules will need to be adhered to.

Harri adds: ““The rural community in Wales will have kept a close eye on the Agricultural Bill, which was passed through Parliament very recently. This removes the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and replaces it with new UK supports for farmers.

“It is worth noting too, that as well as passing legislation to ensure UK rules and regulations are transparent at the end of the transition period, the Government is negotiating new trade deals. As an EU member, the UK was part of 40 trade deals which the EU had with more than 70 countries.  More than 20 of these existing deals, covering 50 countries or territories, have been rolled over and will start on 1 January 2021. Fifty-two countries currently have free trade deals in place with the UK for the end of the Brexit transition period. It is important that exporting firms in Wales familiarise themselves with the trading status of countries they export to, so there are no surprises waiting for them.”

Harri adds: “Welsh businesses are resilient and adaptable – the response we have seen within the business community over the past few months underlines this. And there is much support that can be tapped into. It is important that proper expert advice is sought as soon as possible. Businesses that believe Brexit will be a ‘storm in a teacup’ quickly followed by business as usual, may live to regret not preparing for the fundamental changes it will bring to how they operate and trade.”

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Bevan Buckland LLP is the largest independent accountancy firm in Wales providing practical support and strategic accounting, tax and financial planning advice for small to medium sized businesses. Headquartered in Swansea, the firm has offices in Carmarthen, Pembroke Dock, Haverfordwest and St David’s.

For more information visit: www.bevanbuckland.co.uk


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Welsh and UK Governments agree to establish Freeports in Wales

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The Welsh Government has reached agreement with the UK Government on the establishment of Freeports in Wales.

Welsh Ministers have agreed to support Freeport policies in Wales following the UK Government’s agreement to meet the Welsh Government’s demands that UK Ministers provide at least £26m of non-repayable starter funding for any Freeport established in Wales, which represents a parity with the deals offered to English Freeports.

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The UK Government have agreed to meet a number of other demands – including that both Governments will act on the basis of a ‘partnership of equals’ to deliver any Freeports in Wales.

In addition, both Governments have agreed a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated clearly it will operate in a manner that aligns with the Welsh Government’s policies on fair work and environmental sustainability, including the commitment to Wales becoming a net-zero carbon nation.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Following considerable engagement between our Governments, I’m pleased we have been able to reach agreement with UK Ministers to establish Freeports in Wales. The agreement we have reached is fair to Wales, and respects the Welsh Government’s responsibilities in devolved policy areas.

“However, we have made it clear to the UK Government that a Freeport will only be implemented if it can be demonstrated, using robust evidence and analysis, that it will support our fair work agenda and deliver long-term, sustainable benefits for Wales, and value for money for Welsh taxpayers.

“I very much hope that the UK Government’s willingness to work with the Welsh Government as equals on Freeports can provide a positive model for future co-operation between our governments on other initiatives.”

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The UK Government’s Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove said: “I am delighted that Wales is the latest area in the UK set to benefit from a new Freeport.

“The UK Government’s ambitious Freeports agenda will help to level up our coastal communities and create new opportunities for people right across the country.

“Together with the Welsh Government, I look forward to seeing innovative proposals come forward that demonstrate tangible benefits for the people of Wales.”

In addition, Welsh and UK Ministers have agreed that the UK Government will provide tax incentives for Freeports in Wales in parity with Freeports in other parts of the United Kingdom for the reserved taxes that have been designated to advance the policy aims. The Welsh Government will design tax reliefs from local and devolved taxes (Non-Domestic Rates and Land Transaction Tax) to support the policy aims.

Both Governments say they will remain open to the possibility of a multi-site Freeport in Wales. In recognition of Wales’ unique economic geography and the Welsh Government’s aspirations for economic development in Wales, the UK Government is willing to relax the 45 km boundary limit for a multi-site Freeport solution, should there be a sufficiently compelling case for doing so.

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Both Governments will also remain open to the possibility of allowing more than one Freeport in Wales, should they be presented with a sufficiently compelling business case.

As with English Freeports, a fair and open competitive process will be used to determine where the policy should be implemented in Wales. Both Governments will work together to co-design the process for Freeport site selection, and both will have an equal say in all decisions throughout the implementation process. This includes the final decision on site selection.

Both Governments have begun the process of designing the bid prospectus for the competition and further details about the timing of next steps will be released in due course.

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Swansea digital agency iCreate enters the metaverse with bespoke digital environments

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Swansea-based creative agency iCreate is entering the metaverse by creating 3D visual environments for Dubai-based NFT boutique Jumi – a new outlet for curated digital art.

The metaverse hit the headlines last year when Facebook’s parent company rebranded to Meta, reflecting the growing potential of the internet to offer an interactive virtual world through AI and 3D digital animation.

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The metaverse offers social connection through technology, interaction with brands and businesses, and online recreation.

It encompasses everything from online video games to virtual shops where you can digitally try on items before you buy them, and bespoke venues for online events of all kinds.

It’s expected to expand into an online world where people will have their own virtual avatars which they take from one virtual environment to another, purchasing virtual products for them and housing them in virtual homes.

This is where iCreate – which specialises in creating digital environments – comes in. The company provides CGIs, 3D flythrough animations, VR tours and marketing brochures to the off-plan property sector.

From interactive, customisable home interiors that enable buyers to plan every detail of their dream home, through to large-scale digital animations of new housing developments, iCreate is adept at creating virtual environments that look and feel like the real thing.

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Now it’s teaming up with Jumi and other partners to create digital environments that will never be built in the real world, but will exist in the metaverse, where people’s avatars can explore and socialise in them.

A key aspect of the metaverse is non-fungible tokens (NFTs): digital assets that can be bought and traded. These are increasingly hitting the headlines as everyone from independent artists to big brands creates and sells digital-only products, music, artwork and more.

Dawn Lyle (right) and the team at iCreate

Jumy, which completed a $1.2M seed funding round last year, is the ultimate NFT boutique marketplace for exclusive digital art. All artworks are curated from the world’s most creative digital artists, to guarantee outstanding quality.

The platform is the world’s first to offer a fully integrated digital art experience where visitors will be able to purchase pieces with payment cards, trade their NFTs, order NFT frames (digital frames for NFT art) and flex their NFTs on metaverse – all in one place.

By collaborating with Jumi, iCreate will make beautiful, exclusive digital environments for displaying NFTs in the metaverse. From here, it’s expected that a new market in bespoke virtual homes and offices will develop over the coming years, as more aspects of all our lives are lived in the metaverse.

Dawn Lyle, iCreate’s co-founder, said: “We’re delighted to have formed this new partnership with Jumi and to be taking our bespoke digital environments into the metaverse.

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“The metaverse offers such a wealth of possibilities, and over the coming years it will become increasingly common to play, meet and do business with people all over the world in virtual settings.

“We’re excited to be creating stunning digital environments in which these activities can take place; in the metaverse, there are no limitations and it’s possible to bring dreams to life, creating astonishing virtual places that delight and surprise. It gives us the opportunity to put all our creative skills to use in exciting new ways and we can’t wait to get started.”

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River Island launches its brand new Swansea concept store this weekend

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Fashion chain River Island is revealing its brand new concept store at Morfa Retail Park in Swansea on Saturday (7 May).

Located at the former New Look store at Unit 6 on the Brunel Way shopping centre, the new store is just a few doors down from its previous outlet, although promises to be an even bigger and better boutique shopping experience.

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Located across two floors, the 8,253 square foot store has been specially curated to the tastes of Swansea shoppers according to the fashion chain.

Set across one level, womenswear will occupy just over half the space, with the remainder split between menswear and kidswear, stocking kids, mini and baby.

To celebrate the new opening, River Island will be hosting a launch event weekend in-store on the 7th and 8th of May, where shoppers can expect to hear celebratory sounds with in-store DJ sets, whilst the first lucky 100 customers through the doors will receive a £10 gift card which can be redeemed in-store or online.

Frances Baker, River Island Property Director said: “River Island is thrilled to be relocating and open ing a new boutique store in Swansea, Morfa as part of our segmentation programme.

“We are excited to introduce our concept store to our existing loyal customers, with exciting opportunities to acquire new customers with our new look-and-feel store.”

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River Island say the store upgrade strengthens its 300 strong estate and solidifies its message of “standing by the high street”, a campaign set up in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic to show solidarity with other high street brands negatively hit by the effects of the pandemic.

The fashion chain say that by investing in finding ways to encourage and entice customers to return to in-person shopping it hopes to “enhance and improve the shopping journey for its customers”.

(Lead image: River Island)

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