Government issues small traders with EORI numbers as no-deal ramps up

The Treasury will automatically enroll small business that trade with the EU with customs identification in bid to stave off chaos of a no-deal Brexit.

The Government will automatically enrol companies with customs identification they need to keep trading with the EU should a no-deal Brexit happen.

HMRC will allocate more than 88,000 firms with an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number in the next fortnight – double the existing number.

These unique identifiers are needed to track companies trading with the EU and collect duties.

Read: EORI number: What it is and hot to get or check one

Letters informing companies of their EORI number will start arriving as early as today.

Non-VAT registered businesses will still have to apply manually.

So far, 72,000 companies have EORI numbers. A total of 245,000 firms would need one an EORI number in the event the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Earlier this month, the Liberal Democrats revealed that only 27pc of businesses which trade solely with other EU member states had obtained an EORI number.

Businesses without an EORI number will be unable to continue to trade with EU member states.

Government sources accused Philip Hammond, the former Chancellor, of blocking the automatic rollout of EORI numbers while he was at the Treasury.

Earlier this month Chancellor Sajid Javid ordered the Treasury to step up preparations in response to concerns that tens of thousands of SMEs are unprepared for the introduction of tariffs and other customs checks if the EU imposes new controls after a disorderly Brexit. UK trade with the EU is currently free of tariffs, quotas and associated paperwork.

Read: Small businesses must act now to continue to trade with EU

Chancellor Sajid Javid said: “As the Government accelerates its preparation to leave the EU on Oct 31, it’s right businesses are prepared too.

“There can be no time for delay which is why HMRC has allocated thousands of businesses with a trading number to ensure they can continue to trade their goods through Europe from day one.

“This will help ease the flow of goods at border points and support businesses to trade and grow.”

It comes as part of the Government’s ramped-up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

Business groups welcomed the news – but urged more action from Downing Street.

Federation of Small Businesses chairman Mike Cherry said: “If the nightmare of a chaotic no-deal Brexit on October 31 becomes a reality, our small traders will the first ones off the cliff. Overnight, small business exporters will have to contend with growth sapping tariffs and time-consuming customs declarations.

Automatically issuing EORI numbers

“These businesses are the ones that need to prepare the most, so it is welcome to see the Government has listened to us and is taking concrete action. Automatically issuing EORI numbers to all VAT-registered small firms that trade exclusively with the EU is a vital intervention in preparing small traders for a no-deal Brexit and will be one less thing for them to worry about. It will also allow small business importers to the EU to take advantage of easements such as transitional simplified procedures.”

Cherry called on the Government to prepare for an emergency Budget ahead of a potential no deal to “boost cash flow and help small business prepare and adapt to any new trading circumstances”.

British Chambers of Commerce head Adam Marshall said: “Businesses do not want a messy and disorderly no-deal Brexit on October 31, but given the ticking clock, it’s prudent that both Government and industry be as prepared as possible. The proportion of firms applying for EORI numbers was concerningly low, and automatic issuance will help ease the administrative burden facing companies in the weeks and months ahead.

“Sorting EORI numbers is only a first step. For many firms, it will trigger more questions. Businesses still need clarity on many other cross-border trade issues, such as customs procedures following a no-deal exit.”

Further reading

Small businesses must act now to continue to trade with the EU

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Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...

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