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Trade after Brexit: What you need to know for your business

As a business owner it can feel as if you’re in the eye of the storm, trying to just take each day as it comes. Yet, the reality is that we are quickly heading towards the end of the year and the end of the transition period before the UK leaves the EU. With uncertainty still surrounding whether the UK and EU will come to a deal by December 31st, for business owners its important to start putting plans in place for whatever the outcome may be. 

What business owners that import and export from the EU need to know:

One of the first things to consider, whatever the outcome is on the current trade talks with the EU, businesses will be required to submit import and export declarations on any goods they are sending to EU countries. One way to help navigate the new import and export declaration requirements is to appoint a specialist to deal with this, even just in the first few months of 2021. 

As well as preparing your business, you will need to ensure that the EU business importing goods from you is also prepared after 1st January 2021. They will also need to make any necessary import customs declarations and need a license or certificate to import some types of goods.

Businesses will also need to obtain Economic Operator Registration Identification (EORI) numbers to be able to import and export. Currently an EORI can be used to facilitate transactions across the EU but from 1st January 2021, it will be necessary for businesses to have separate UK and EU EORI numbers. To check the specific UK trade tariffs that will apply to the goods you import from January, the website has a form you can fill out which can be found here.

Every declaration for an import and export will need to include the commodity code of each item, this will ensure that the correct duty rate is applied to that good. There are more than 15,000 commodity codes though so it’s important that businesses find out which codes apply to each of their products, so they don’t get incorrectly charged.

Are we expecting any more trade deals before January?

The UK has secured high profile trade deals in recent months, the first being with Japan. The department for International trade has also announced that it has signed trade agreements with Switzerland and reached an accord with Kenya. The department has also rolled over the EU trade agreements and agreed trade terms in principle with 52 countries including South Korea, Israel, Iceland, Norway, Morocco and South Africa. 

However, UK businesses are still waiting to hear of more trade deals. Two countries widely rumoured to be close to establishing a trade deal with the UK are Canada and Singapore and negotiations remain ongoing with Mexico, Vietnam and Egypt – three countries whose combined trading relationship with the UK was worth close to £12bn in 2019 for goods alone.  

However, concerns remain about what will happen on the 1st January if deals aren’t reached, a deal with Turkey for example has been complicated because Turkey remains in a customs union with the EU. In addition one of Britain’s key allies, America, has had to await the outcome of the Presidential Election before meaningful conversations could be held.  Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s approach to foreign policy is likely to differ significantly and it remains to be seen what trade agreement can be reached in the coming months with a more outward looking President that was opposed to Brexit when the referendum was first rumoured.

While a number of key questions still remain as we look towards the end of the year, business owners should take steps where they can to begin putting processes in place ready for January. It’s likely that there will be a number of challenges and teething problems for business owners both in the EU and the UK in January following the introduction of new rules and policies but taking the time now to read around what is set to change and the outcome of the current talks will help businesses in the new year.