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Brexit - what you can do to prepare

07 October 2020

Slow progress in UK/EU trade talks has added to the challenge of understanding what needs to be done in preparation for the 31st December 2020. From that date forward, businesses trading with EU Member States and EFTA countries will do so on a ‘third country’ basis ('Third country status' refers to any country outside the EU, and outside its economic structures, the single market and the customs union. These countries have to fill in customs declarations, for example, when they import from and export to the EU - whether there is a trade agreement or not.)

This will require changes to how businesses operate and the documentation and certification implications that we have not been accustomed to for several decades whilst dealing with EU-based customers.

Negotiations continue with the EU with respect to a free trade agreement, but it is anticipated that any agreement reached will not remove the new non-tariff trading obligations. It will take time to adjust but these practices will become the norm.

We have a list of points and actions to consider below, and we have a page with links to information on specific topics at  Brexit Info Resources 

Key areas to consider:

Practical Actions you can take now

    • plan ahead and understand the procedures you will need to operate following Brexit

Register your non-UK, EU staff under the EU Settlement Scheme

    • retain your staff by helping them register under the EU Settlement Scheme

Get your UK EORI Number (Economic Operator Registration and Identification)

    • if you don’t have one, you won’t be able to trade with the EU without it

International Terms and Conditions of Service (INCOTERMS)

    • check your existing terms as possible changes to pricing and payment policy and INCOTERMS may impact your cash flow and pose a greater risk of non-payment. Your dispute resolution/arbitration clauses may need to be amended

Export Health Certificates

    • Products of animal origin and seafood will need an Export Health Certificate (EHC) issued in advance of transportation and must enter the EU via a Border Inspection Post (BIP).  Most fish products will also need a catch certificate.

Changes at UK/EU borders

    • There will be new customs arrangements and a phased approach to checks on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) goods will apply. This includes pre-notification and export health certification requirements, in addition to entry of SPS goods at a designated BCP for the commodity type and a risk-based checks. 

Importing products and excise duty involved

    • New rules will apply from 1st January 2021 and some will be phased in over 6 months.

The Northern Ireland Protocol

    • The working assumption is that Export Health Certificates (EHCs) will be required for trade in products of animal origin between GB and NI [also certification required for plant products etc.]. Further guidance will be issued as the situation become clearer

Customs and Documentation

    • For most goods you will need to make a full declaration which must be made before the goods arrive at the port of export.  Chambers of Commerce and other qualified agents can help with export and customs paperwork


    • Ensure your labelling conforms with the new protocols such as the requirement to have an EU address for the food business operator or EU importer on the packaging or food label

Keep in Mind…

EORI Numbers

A UK EORI number will allow you to trade goods into or out of the UK. It will permit you or your agent to submit the necessary customs declarations and to apply for customs simplification procedures.  Your UK EORI number will start with ‘GB’ and be followed by 12 digits which will include your VAT number. You may already have a UK EORI number if you trade with non-EU countries.

A UK EORI number is not required if you only move goods between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

If you are a VAT registered UK business, HMRC may have automatically allocated you a UK EORI number. If you are not a VAT registered business or have not received your UK EORI contact HMRC to apply.


From 01 January 2021, all wooden pallets and other wooden packaging material (e.g.: crates) brought to the UK from the EU will need to comply with the ISPM15 standard.  The same will apply to traffic leaving the UK for the EU and for traffic between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  ISPM15 standard is intended to prevent the spread of insects and pests via wood. To comply, wood must be heat-treated and marked with a special stamp. Treatment must be repeated after each repair.  For some businesses this will be a new requirement. Wood circulating only within the EU is not subject to ISPM15 and therefore many pallets currently in use are non-compliant.

Vehicle Documents

For those businesses who operate their own delivery vehicles there are several additional considerations to be aware of to ensure your consignments pass quickly through the designated Border Inspection Posts. In addition to the driver’s personal documents and all documents relevant to the load, goods vehicles crossing the border between the UK and EU will need at least the following:

  • Vehicle registration documents
  • Vehicle insurance documents for tractors and trailers
  • Goods vehicle operator licence
  • Possibly other documents subject to trade deal (e.g.: cabotage license)
  • “GB” sticker or European number plates
  • MOT certificates
  • Trailers must be registered for international use (except trips from the UK to Ireland)

See: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/vehicle-documents-required-for-international-road-haulage?step-by-step-nav=9be67e23-bd76-4d60-b6e1-66e0dce5965a


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