With the planned Brexit leaving date fast approaching and no deal agreed, many businesses are concerned about the future. Whilst it is hoped that an agreement will be in place in time, there are still some things businesses trading with Europe can do now to put themselves in the best position. 

Apply for an EORI Number
Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) numbers are used by businesses moving goods in or out of Europe. This number will be required to continue importing and exporting goods unless other arrangements are agreed. It also allows a business to apply for authorisation to use simpler customs processes for any such transaction. 

If your business is VAT registered, you will simply need your VAT registration number and registered name to apply. The application for VAT registered businesses covers both imports and exports. 

If you are not VAT registered, then there are separate forms for importing and exporting. You will need the following information.

All applicants
• Postal address in the UK
• e-mail address

Sole traders/partnerships
• Date of birth (if partnership, this is required for all partners)
• National Insurance number (if partnership, this is required for all partners)

Limited companies
• Company Registration Number
• Date of incorporation
• Country of incorporation

All registration forms can be found online here (tinyurl.com/y9uccgxz). Subject to delays from a rush of applications, the number should be issued in about 3 days. 

Hire a customs agent
Ordinary trading rules require customs declarations to be made for all imports and exports. Whilst it is possible for businesses to make such declarations themselves, this is a specialist area and the requirements can be complex. As such, most businesses would be advised to employ a customs agent to make them on their behalf.

As such agents are likely to be inundated with requests post-Brexit, it may be worth contacting a few agents to ensure your work can be done promptly. 

Speak to suppliers and customers
Not seeing themselves as directly affected by Brexit, most European businesses are not considering the impact of this change. By speaking to your contacts now, you can ensure that you both know what you are going to do to minimise the impact of a no deal Brexit. If your business partners are not prepared, then your own plans may prove worthless. 

We still do not know what the result of Brexit will be. Despite the Northern Ireland border being a recurring issue, businesses that simply trade across this border are still being advised they do not need to take the measures above. There will no doubt be further developments, but a few simple steps now could avoid a lot of business disruption later.

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