Director The Customs People
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Implications of a no-deal Brexit

14th Nov 2018
Director The Customs People
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David Miller looks at the practical implications of Brexit on international trade for small businesses.

The government’s recent release detailing its plans for businesses trading with the European Union in the “unlikely” event of a no-deal Brexit brings with it further uncertainty for those small businesses that are part of an international supply chain. Despite the fact that the report attempts to provide assurances that negotiations are progressing well, businesses of all sizes continue to question what the future holds for their trading operations once Brexit is finalised on 29 March 2019.

While the government report certainly makes for interesting reading, the real takeaway is that any business involved in international trade -- and particularly with EU countries -- should consider the impact that Brexit is set to have on their operations, and start to make plans accordingly.

Detailed guidance

The government’s guidance papers say that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, businesses will have to lodge customs declarations and potentially pay customs duty on goods imported from EU countries. The guidance also says that companies “may wish to consider taking professional advice”, but there are a number of key omissions from the guidance that allow small businesses to carry out some risk mitigation.

Missing AEO

One factor the government has failed to mention is that the concept of Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status is a way that importers and exporters can ensure they are in the best position ahead of Brexit. AEO status can help speed up customs processes, standing firms in good stead, whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. Even if the UK does negotiate a deal, AEO accreditation may be advantageous in addressing existing Brexit concerns.

Why the government failed to mention AEO in the guidance papers remains a mystery. One can only imagine that it comes down to a lack of resources to process a huge number of applications that could follow such widespread advice. Businesses should seriously consider this option in order to be in the best possible position next year.

AEO explained

AEO is an integral part of the Union Customs Code legislation, which will be replicated in UK law as a result of Brexit. It is an internationally recognised quality kite mark indicating that a business’s role in the international supply chain is secure, and that customs controls and procedures are efficient and compliant.

In simple terms, AEO status means that items can pass through customs as quickly as possible, avoiding delays in the supply chain being a key risk mitigation factor for companies.

AEO status also means:

●     It is quicker and easier to obtain customs simplifications

●     The business is subjected to fewer physical and document checks at borders

●     If the truck is selected at controls, it will be given priority as an AEO consignment

●     The business can request that a control is held at a different place

Some key benefits of AEO status include:

●     More efficient transferring through borders

●     Less risk and more effective checks on the reliability of third parties

●     Potentially lower insurance premiums in the future

●     More efficient import/export systems

If a Brexit conclusion is not reached, businesses importing goods from the EU will be required to follow customs procedures in the same way that they currently do when importing or exporting from and to countries outside the EU. This means that for goods entering the UK from the EU, an import declaration will be required, customs checks might be carried out and any customs duties must be paid.

The government release states that before importing goods from the EU, a business will need to:

●    Register for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification Number

●    Ensure their contracts, and international terms and conditions of service reflect that they are now an importer

●    Consider how they will support declarations, including whether to engage a customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider. Engaging a customs broker or acquiring the appropriate software and authorisations from HMRC will come at a cost

●    Decide the correct classification and value of their goods and enter this on the customs declaration

Limited warehousing capacity

Customs warehousing has been presented as a means of safeguarding operations in the event of a no-deal Brexit. However, if everyone rushes to carry out this approach, demand will likely skyrocket and could lead to delays.

At present, I understand that there are more than 800 customs warehouses authorised within the UK, and even before considering Brexit, 750 of these will need to be re-authorised by the end of April 2019. This means that there could easily be a huge rush on the authorities to action these requests in time, particularly if demand for such warehouses rises at the time of Brexit.


All things considered, it is essential for businesses working across all industries to consider the impact of their imports and exports in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Also, with suggestions from some cabinet ministers, including Liam Fox, that a no deal was the “most likely outcome” for Britain, it is highly likely that firms will need some safeguards in place, whatever the eventuality.

Replies (6)

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By mentalworx
15th Nov 2018 10:20

Thank you for a balanced, honest, non-scaremongering pragmatic view. It is very refreshing.

Thanks (1)
By ShayaG
15th Nov 2018 16:58

Registering as an AEO isn't going to shift the cliffs of Dover back half a mile to make room for the new customs terminal we need.

Thanks (0)
By johnjenkins
19th Nov 2018 09:29

A "no deal" Brexit was/is never going to happen. It's not in UK or EU interest. I think now we can see what is going to happen, which I always thought would. Negotiations will continue for the next 2 maybe 4 years, by which time the EU will have realised that they will have to change with what the "people" of Europe want. The ideology of a one army, one parliament has really gone out of the window. Nobody except politicians want it. Our parliament will pass this agreement through (they really have no choice. TM has backed them into a corner, especially as the EU are in agreement). There will be no general election and I very much doubt if there will be a leadership contest.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
Hallerud at Easter
19th Nov 2018 11:43

That is one perm, there are others.

The arithmetic in the H of C needs some breaking of ranks, the DUP are lost to her so where are the votes coming from? Even if she gets all the ERG members (and she will not) she is short.

(I posted elsewhere on the web she should bribe the Nats, promise them Indy ref 2, £250bn set up funds if Scotland votes yes and £50 bn a year for say 4 years 9and no share of National Debt) and I am sure Nicky will give her the 35 votes- catch is 35 may not be enough)

I can spin just as plausible a solution that May ,deal defeated, impasse, H of C waves hands in air and throws back to public, Referendum 2 takes place and blame (for either result) then rests with public; politicians then body swerve all incompetence charges and get back to shredding one another over the NHS.

Still all to play for-Brexit could yet turn out to be a two match fixture.

Thanks (1)
Replying to DJKL:
By johnjenkins
19th Nov 2018 12:36

I can see where you're coming from and listening to Nicky on Andrew Marr (oh woe is me nobody loves Scotland) that's what she could well be hankering for (maybe the two ladies have already done a deal). There can't be a ref 2, otherwise you would have a leadership battle in the Tories then a general election, which still won't resolve the issue.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
Hallerud at Easter
19th Nov 2018 14:31

I think with Brexit "Can't" is not a word in the lexicon, everything and nothing is possible; it is amazing what can be cobbled together when faced with the prospect of losing one's position as an MP. (Trough time)

The political pressure appears to be ratcheting up re May's deal as the 27 possibly back it (well Spain might not), it appears, so that likely puts the kibosh on the ERG accepting it.

I am no longer predicting anything except that predicting that the eventual outcome is unpredictable.

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