The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the Government to urgently help UK exporters prepare for Brexit.
It comes after new research revealed that two-thirds of businesses have not taken the “most basic steps” to prepare for a no-deal scenario.
Among these steps is the need to register with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number.
EORI numbers are currently used by businesses who trade with the rest of the world but agreements between EU member states mean that a number is not required.
However, if the UK were to leave the EU with no deal in place, UK businesses will need to apply the same processes to EU trade that apply when trading with the rest of the world.
According to the latest statistics, around 145,000 businesses will need to register for an EORI number if they haven’t already to continue trading with the EU.
In response to the figures, the FSB – the leading small business body – has now called on the Government to automatically issue EORI numbers.
“The UK government has been very clear: in order to make import and export declarations with UK customs authorities post-Brexit you need an EORI number,” said head of policy and advocacy Martin McTague.
“The solution is obvious – EORI numbers should be automatically issued to VAT-registered firms that trade exclusively in Europe, as they have been in other European countries”.
He added: “Urgent action should be taken to reach out to non-VAT registered firms that trade exclusively within the EU. Unless the government takes the initiative, we could be heading for chaos at our ports in the autumn.”
Commenting on the report, an HMRC spokesperson said the Government is doing “everything we can” to help businesses get ready for the UK leaving the EU on 31 October.
“Businesses who import or export goods need to take action, the first step of which is obtaining an EORI number [if they don’t already have one].”
How to apply for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number
Businesses can access this on www.gov.uk/hmrc/get-eori. You must register to continue to import or export goods with the EU after 31 October if the UK leaves without a deal. You will also need to register before you can apply for authorisations that will make customs processes easier for you.
For expert Brexit advice, including help preparing to trade with the EU in the event of a no-deal scenario, please get in touch.