Countdown to Brexit – Is your business prepared for import and export changes?

As Brexit starts to pick up pace again with more emphasis than ever on Brexit taking place in October, the countdown has well and truly resumed. Currently, it looks very much like the UK may leave the EU on the 31st October deal or no-deal.

Online courier services provider World Options who partner with carriers such as; DHL, FedEx, UPS, TNT and DPD, to transport over 1 million parcels and packages a year for UK companies reveal “there’s still a lot of confusion among SME’s regarding how to prepare for changes in the import and export industry”.

import industry

Instead of waiting to see what happens, courier services provider World Options’ advice to businesses is “be prepared, start planning today”.

If your business imports or exports goods to Europe or other international locations, implement a Brexit strategy so that your business goods don’t get held up in customs, returned or incur additional charges due to incorrect information and planning.

To help you, take a look at the following “Brexit To-Do List” have you checked everything off? If not, get started.

Brexit to-do list

1. Have you got an EORI number for your respective country?

If are a UK business that imports, exports or uses courier services to transport goods to Europe you must have a UK EORI number, or you’ll be unable to ship goods. EORI stands for “Economic Operator Registration and Identification”.

After Brexit, businesses who trade between the EU and UK will require the shipper and receiver to have an EORI number for their respective country.

To clarify, if you are a UK business sending goods to a supplier in Spain for example, you will require a UK EORI number and your supplier in Spain will require an EORI number registered in Spain to be able to receive the goods.

UK EORI numbers will not be recognised in the EU. EU EORI numbers will not be accepted in the UK. All businesses must register for an EORI in their respective country as soon as possible. It’s usually an online application on the country’s Government website.

2. Have you agreed on Incoterms with your suppliers and customers?

Incoterms are a set of rules which outline who is responsible for paying for the delivery of goods upon a transaction or trade agreement. The terms should cover; shipping costs, insurance, and tariffs on the items being transported. If there’s an increase in shipping fees, for example, your supplier or customers may be less likely to accept these fees. So, it’s important to put this into consideration and re-evaluate your incoterms, agree on these terms with suppliers and customers to avoid confusion after Brexit.

3. Do your goods require additional export licenses and supporting documents?

Knowing what codes and descriptions to put on import and export documentation and commercial invoices will help avoid your goods being delayed due to unclear descriptions. The below five descriptions should be on all import and export documentation.

EORI number

Provide your company registered Economic Operator Registration and Identification number.

HS codes / Commodity codes

What is the HS code for the item you are shipping? Do you know? If not find out the HS codes and ensure the correct code is on all shipping documentation.


Add clear and accurate descriptions regarding the contents of the items being shipping. If it’s an item of clothing, state exactly what type of item of clothing, size, gender including the material it is made of. The key questions to answer when adding descriptions are:

  • What is the product?
  • What is it made from?
  • What is it used for?

Origin of goods

State the origin of the goods, for example, if you are sending an item from the UK to Europe but it was originally manufactured in India, this needs to be made clear.

True value of goods

Provide the true value of the goods being transported on the shipping and insurance documentation to avoid queries with customs. If customs believe the value of goods is inaccurate and not the true market price, they may ask for evidence to prove this. This will delay your shipment and even incur additional charges.

4. Are you providing a completed commercial invoice?

After Brexit every shipment will need a commercial invoice, most online shipping providers have a feature to create an electronic commercial invoice when booking a shipment. Commercial invoices help customs authorities assess duties, taxes and asses goods suitability for transportation in and out of the country.

5. Do your goods require export licenses and supporting documents?

If your business imports or exports special goods you may need an export license and additional documents about the goods. Check the rules regarding export licenses on the UK Government website, there’s a full list of goods which may require export licenses and special rules.

6. Have you contacted your suppliers and customers to discuss the changes?

Keep communication channels flowing by contacting all your regular suppliers and customers before the Brexit deadline. Make sure they understand the potential changes and they agree to put measures in place their side to avoid import and export hiccups or delays. Ask them if they aware of the potential import VAT & Duty they may have to pay? Check if you have all their update to date contact details and information for completing your export and import declarations.

7. Do you have a Shipping Account Manager?

If you use a shipping provider, it’s wise to contact them and make sure you have an Account Manager to help you. Having someone to speak to and act as a liaison to help resolve shipping queries if there is a problem can cut down the time you spend chasing shipping queries. They’ll know whom to speak to get fast answers and solutions if your goods are lost, damaged or held up in customs.

No-one can predict the import and export disruptions that may occur after Brexit. But if businesses proactively check and implement the above “To-Do List” they’re less likely to experience issues with their shipments.

(PLEASE NOTE: At the time of this guide being written, the UK is still part of the EU and the Brexit agreement is still being negotiated. Therefore, this information may be subject to change.)