The UK and the EU wrapped up a trade deal on Christmas Eve, bringing to an end years of negotiations.
But though a deal has been struck, that doesn’t mean nothing’s changing. The UK has left the EU, and December 31 marked the end of the Brexit Transition period.
The UK’s fresh start means that businesses need to be aware of the new rules which now apply for exporting and importing goods.
While the deal with the EU means zero tariffs and no quotas on goods travelling across the channel or to Ireland, you will now need to make customs declarations when exporting goods to the EU. Most firms use couriers or freight forwarders to cover this off.
And you’ll also need to get an EORI number which starts with the letters GB.
The good news is that there is plenty of guidance available on the UK Government’s website, and some of the rules have been simplified whilst businesses get used to the new set-up.
City A.M. spoke to some businesses across the UK to find out how they went about getting ready for the new rules to avoid disruption.
Sara Esposito, Lina Stores
Lina Stores is a much-loved group of delis and restaurants in Soho and King’s Cross, famed for its product selection that makes customers feel like they’re in Rome or Florence.
While Lina stock plenty of well-known Italian brands, their unique selling point is the high-quality, boutique items. They work with individual small producers in Italy and then use a small distribution company in Italy to consolidate their purchases from the various producers and send them over.
“That gives us the opportunity to find the best products,” says Head of Operations Sara Esposito who lives in south east London. “It might just be that with those little companies that haven’t been picked up by distributors in London, the quality is better, and you know exactly where it’s coming from and the story behind the product.”
The company applied for a EORI number that allows trade between countries, and put systems in place for declaring the goods coming through. However, the challenge for Esposito, 26, and her colleagues has been in ensuring that all their suppliers complete the correct paperwork for the exports.
“We’ve worked to bring them up to speed,” she says. “Our co-partners in Italy have been really good at helping us understand what we need to do in terms of legalities. We’ve had to instruct our suppliers to change the way that they fill out the paperwork to get the products to us.”
Teething problems resulted in some delays to Christmas deliveries, but these are now resolved. “We’re in a good place and I think all of our suppliers are catching up.”
It’s the same story when it comes to staffing. Since most of the team are Italian, they have applied for the EU Settlement Scheme that allows them to stay and work in the UK.
Esposito is confident that her planning will ensure Lina Stores continues to serve Londoners for years and decades to come.
Alex Stewart, OneNine5
Alex’s brand OneNine5 was founded in 2019, offering recycled materials, carbon-neutral shipping and a recycling service for elegant travel bags.
He was inspired to set it up by the same person that has inspired millions of Brits to be a little greener – Sir David Attenborough!
“I had major surgery in 2018 and was lucky to survive. I came out the other side deciding to do something different,” he says.
And at just 31, the environmental message was an eye-opener.
Most of his customers are based in the UK, Ireland and Germany. Aware that 2021 would bring change, the three-strong team used government online tools to see how UK transition would affect them. “Our approach was to arm ourselves with information,” he says. “As a small team, we’re tight on resources, so we needed to be ready.”
Stewart and his partners liaised with the company’s shipping and packing partners to find out what information was required on outward bound goods. “Our biggest priority has been to ensure there would be no holdups to customers’ orders. Our (logistics) partners have been incredibly helpful in advising us.”
The team made sure to have excess stock before Christmas and have switched between delivery firms to avoid potential delays. His firm already had paperwork in place to trade abroad as it imports materials from China – and has since arranged to ship to Northern Ireland. “We’ve had no problems getting goods through customs.”
Brexit: Things Businesses Should Do Now
If businesses who deal with Europe are not ready for these changes, they could risk serious disruption.
Head to gov.uk/transition now and use the Brexit checker tool to get a personalised list of actions for your business.
- While the deal with the EU means zero tariffs and zero quotas, businesses still need to be ready for changes to trade and customs procedures with Europe. For trade with countries outside the EU, check for any changes to tariffs.
- From 1 January 2021, you’ll need to make customs declarations when exporting goods to the EU. You can make the declarations yourself, but most businesses use an intermediary like a courier, freight forwarder or customs agent.
- The Government has taken measures to allow traders time to adjust to new processes. It has introduced new border controls in three stages up until 1 July 2021, and agreed with the EU to temporarily simplify Rules of Origin procedures for 12 months to the end of December 2021 by implementing a 12 month waiver on supplier declarations.
- However, you’ll need to take some key actions now, like making sure you have an EORI number starting with GB, checking the new rules for importing and exporting goods and being confident that your goods meet origin rules before claiming preference. If exporting, you’ll also need to check that the EU business you’re exporting to is also ready.
- If you’re due to travel to the EU for work, you may need a visa or work permit.
- From 1 January, if you want to hire from outside the UK, including from the EU, you must be a Home Office licenced sponsor under the UK’s new points-based immigration system. The new system doesn’t apply when hiring Irish citizens, or EU citizens already living in the UK.
- You may need to have your UK professional qualification officially recognised if you want to work in a regulated profession in the EEA or in Switzerland.