The UK will leave the EU by automatic operation of the law on 31 October 2019, unless the UK Parliament does something to stop it.
If there are no arrangements in place to temporarily keep the UK within the customs union, ie a no-deal Brexit, import and export procedures will change immediately at 23.01 on 31 October (00.01 on 1 November French time).
All businesses that export to, or import from EU countries will need an Economic Operation Registration Identification (EORI) number issued by the UK, otherwise they will not be able to keep trading with EU customers and suppliers.
There are different procedures in place for moving goods between Ireland and Northern Ireland, so businesses that only move goods across the Northern Irish border will not need an EORI number.
What is an EORI number?
Businesses that currently only trade within the EU will not be familiar with the EORI system as it is not needed when goods cross borders between EU countries.
The EORI number has 12 digits and if the business is VAT registered the EORI number will incorporate its VAT registration number. The EORI numbers issued to UK-based businesses start with “GB”.
If the business has been trading from one of the other 27 EU member states it may already have an EU EORI number. This EU EORI number will remain valid after the UK leaves the EU, but only for communications with customs authorities in those 27 EU member states.
Businesses that conduct trade from the UK after Brexit which export from or import into the UK will need to make customs declarations in the UK and to do that they will need a GB EORI number.
HMRC is automatically allocating EORI numbers to 88,000 VAT registered traders which it knows have traded with the EU in the past and don’t already have an EORI number. The letters informing traders of their new unique EORI number should arrive this week.
However, many more businesses who are not VAT registered will also need an EORI number. If your client imports goods from the EU, or exports any goods to customers in the EU, even very small amounts, they will need an EORI number to clear those goods through customs. Those businesses need to apply for an EORI number as soon as possible. Most EORI numbers are allocated instantly but some may take up to five days to be approved if HMRC needs to undertake additional checks on the business.
In addition to clearing customs, UK businesses will have to pay VAT on any goods imported from the EU into the UK. A trader can register for transitional simplified procedures (TSP), which is an additional process to the EORI number. There may also be tariffs to deal with on certain goods, and health and safety certificates.
There is a lot to understand about importing and exporting post-Brexit, but fortunately the French Customs authority has provided a useful guide, written in English.