Written by: Keith Tully
Published: 21st August 2019
The government is to begin automatically enrolling businesses across the country onto a customs system designed to function if the UK leaves the European Union later this year.
As a result of this enrolment, up to 88,000 companies that are currently VAT registered will be allocated a trading number that should allow them to trade in and out of the EU after Brexit.
Relevant authorities, including HMRC, had been encouraging VAT-registered companies to apply for their own Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) numbers in advance of Brexit but only a minority have done so to date.
In fact, estimates are that less than a third of the companies who the government would like to see being EORI registered had so far been allocated such a number.
The move to automatically enrol companies onto the EORI register and allocate numbers correspondingly is being seen as a move towards better preparing UK businesses for a situation in which Britain leaves the EU on October 31st without a deal on the terms of departure.
“Auto-enrolling the tens of thousands of businesses who do not yet have an EORI number is a sensible measure from the government,” commented Nicole Sykes, head of EU negotiations at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).
“But it’s no silver bullet and it’s just one of hundreds of things that need to be done if the very worst effects of a No Deal are to be mitigated.”
Ms Sykes went on to say that the allocation of EORI numbers should help avoid situations in which lorries arrive at ports only to find that they don’t have the paperwork they need to transport goods in or out of EU countries.
However, she also made clear that from the CBI’s perspective, a No Deal Brexit will have a “web of short and long-term consequences” that go beyond cross-border trading and will be “both complex and damaging”.
The CBI’s position is that the UK government should be focussed on seeking to secure a Brexit deal with the EU and should do all it possibly can to avoid a No Deal situation.