What directors need to know

We got an interesting email from the government the other day. 

Specifically the HMRC which should make anyone sit up and take notice – once you’ve checked it’s genuine

It reiterates that the UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October “whatever the circumstances” – their words, not ours – and sets out some of the things that a business should do to prepare itself for the changes to the current customs situation. 

The stand-out news is that HMRC are automatically issuing VAT-registered businesses with a UK EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) number.  

This will allow companies to move goods in and out of the UK after October 31 and theoretically it will be impossible to do so without one although interestingly it states specifically that an EORI number is not required to move good between Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland

In order to apply a company will need: 

  • A VAT number and their date of registration
  • National Insurance Number – if a sole trader or an individual
  • Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR)
  • Business start date and Standard Industrial Classification code (SIC)
  • Government Gateway user ID and password

So far, some 72,000 companies have already registered for an EORI number while HMRC have written to the remaining 88,000 to inform them and encourage them to apply.  

Chancellor Sajid Javid said: “The move will help ease the flow of goods at border points and support businesses to trade and grow.”


Dr Adam Marshall, Director General at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) welcomed the auto-enrollment but stressed it was only a first step. 

He said: “For many firms, it will trigger more questions. Businesses still need clarity on many other cross-border trade issues, such as customs procedures at borders following a no-deal exit and when the Government will launch an official database to provide ease of access to information on tariffs and quotas.”

There are also other recommendations to get a business Brexit ready including:

  • Apply for Transitional Simplified Procedures – a simplified import procedure that allows the company to get extra time to send in their customs documentation
  • Check the duty they will have to pay on the items they are bringing into the UK
  • Apply for an online account to pay any duties required
  • Check with transport suppliers to find out what additional information they will need to continue to export your products to the EU
  • Confirm that your buyers are following their country’s customs processes and are ready and able to send you the appropriate paperwork such as import declarations to expedite exports.

While there will be more updates to follow as the Brexit situation clarifies (or not), this is the first official communication received directing businesses to act in a specific way. 

It’s probably not going to be the last.