Persistent uncertainty about future, post-Brexit trade arrangements is seriously hampering the work of procurement staff in the public sector. A new poll found that nearly half report they cannot prepare for Brexit due to lack of clarity over new trading configurations.

The survey of over 2,000 supply chain managers, which was conducted by the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS), also found that nearly a third (32%) of them have yet to begin any work on preparing for Brexit, while almost 10% anticipate added difficulty in securing contracts after March 2019.

Not all findings were negative, however. Almost a quarter (24%) of the senior procurement staff surveyed reported that they had added contract new clauses that would permit renegotiation in the wake of currency fluctuations. They are also actively seeking new suppliers.

40% of the procurement professionals polled reported that they were coordinating risk analyses in advance of the Brexit deadline, but just 12% reported that were currently properly prepared for the change. A similar proportion (13%) reported that they were improving relationships with EU suppliers.

Money spent to date on Brexit strategies has varied widely: 11% have spent under £10,000 so far, while 25% have spent more than £100,000. Nearly half, however, have spent nothing “as they remain inert about what to do.”

22% said they had no idea how much time public sector procurement staff required to be properly prepared once the government had signed an EU deal.

Noting that higher supply costs for private and public sector organisations is a major issue as Brexit reshapes supply chains, Duncan Brock, a group director at CIPS, said:

“This aura of inertia is compounded by a lack of clarity about the direction of travel even with the new transition period arrangement. The government needs to get a Brexit proposal on the table and start negotiating. Though the noise around negotiations should be dampened, it only fuels uncertainty and causes more damage to UK suppliers.”