Building for our life outside the EU

THE UK has left the EU and there are new rules for doing business with Europe.

CTS Projects, based in County Down and Dublin, has been looking into the changes ahead with the help of the UK Government website. The business provides facilities maintenance services for 30,000 homes and commercial properties across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Connaire McGreevy, founder of CTS Projects, says: “We do everything from repairing a door handle or performing an annual gas safety check, through to the design and construction of new buildings. Our supply chain includes a lot of imports from the EU, such as steel, timber and plasterboard – items we use day to day.”

New business rules with Europe means any business that imports and exports materials to and from the EU requires updated paperwork, including new customs declarations.

Following the 2016 referendum, CTS Projects began looking into setting up an office in the Republic of Ireland – giving the business a legal trading entity in the EU as well as the UK, and helping smooth the import of goods across the border.

McGreevy says: “I thought setting up a Dublin office would be a very practical way of doing things, as the only movement between the EU and the UK from an operational point of view would be our financial transactions. It means that now our contracts are held by a UK company, but deployed by an EU company.”

He’s been working with the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) and Construction Employers Federation NI, while also attending online seminars on the transition, to help his business stay ahead of any changes.

Construction businesses who need further information on the new business rules with Europe can also visit the FMB’s website.

One of CTS Projects’ key considerations was its army of employees: 120 in the UK and 50 in the Republic of Ireland. According to the Office of National Statistics, 8 per cent of the construction workforce in the UK – and 28 per cent in London – are from EU countries.

Businesses need a sponsor licence to hire most workers from outside the UK. Becoming a sponsor can take around eight weeks and fees apply. This does not apply when hiring Irish nationals, or EU citizens eligible for status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

If you run a building business, you should encourage your current EU staff to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

EU citizens and their families living in the UK before 31 December 2020 have until 30 June 2021 to apply. Irish citizens and those who already have indefinite leave to remain do not need to apply but they can if they want to.

McGreevy adds: “We’ve seen fewer people applying for jobs from outside the UK recently so, although we’re not currently recruiting from the EU, we have done in the past.

“We still have a number of EU citizens working for us here in Northern Ireland, including a gas engineer and an assistant accountant.

“We’ve tried to help them with the practical steps that mean they can continue working in the UK, such as getting their pre-settled or settled status via the EU Settlement Scheme.”

If you’re a small business and you haven’t taken action yet, there’s plenty of support available to guide you through the new rules.

Depending on your type of business, there are several steps you need to take, including making sure you have the documents you need if you’re planning to hire workers from outside the UK, and ensuring any manufactured goods have the correct markings, approvals or certifications.

If you haven’t begun to “check, change and go”, take a look at the UK Government’s online hub at It has all the information you need to keep your business moving.

There’s also a Brexit Checker Tool you can use to get a personalised list of actions for your business – and the time to start is now.

Associations such as the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) and Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) are also there to help. The Construction Leadership Council’s website also has an array of useful material.

James Sibley, head of international affairs for the FSB, says: “We welcome UK Government efforts to encourage and enable small firms to prepare for the changes

“Small-business owners should be consulting the UK Government’s site, as well as our own dedicated hub.”

Meanwhile, McGreevy’s message is to take action now. He says: “You need to get ready, especially in terms of supply chain and employees. If you’ve done nothing so far, start today.”

Keep your business moving

If you haven’t started to “check, change and go”, head to and use the Brexit Checker Tool for personalised information on what actions your business needs to take for new rules with Europe.

  • If you currently import and export to and from GB, NI and the EU, make sure you are aware of the new rules.
  • If you are a manufacturer, you need to make sure you’re using the correct markings, as well as checking your own and your suppliers’ legal responsibilities.
  • Check if a visa or work permit is required to travel to an EU country for work and business purposes and apply if necessary.
  • Businesses that recruit from outside the UK will need to apply for a sponsor licence.
  • Signpost EU citizens who are already working at your organisation to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if they haven’t already. They will need to apply by 30 June 2021 to continue living and working in the UK.
  • If you move goods into, out of or through Northern Ireland, you will need to find out how your business will be affected by the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Swipe below to reveal the four most urgent actions for your industry sector:

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