HM Revenue and Customs has written to businesses that trade with the EU, urging them to step up their preparations for a potential no-deal Brexit.
HMRC’s deputy chief executive, Jim Harra, sent letters to two groups of VAT-registered businesses in the UK – those that trade only with EU states, and those that trade both with the EU and other international markets – setting out the steps they must take to be ready for Brexit.
The letters, branded with the government’s Get Ready for Brexit campaign slogan, each included a checklist of actions to take, including registering for the correct Economic Operator Registration and Identification numbers, which are needed to move goods across borders; getting the right customs forms; and applying for simplified import procedures.
In August, the government began automatically assigning EU EORI numbers to VAT-registered businesses as many had failed to sign up themselves. However, the letter to businesses that trade only with the EU warned that they would also need a UK EORI number to move goods in and out of the UK.
Businesses that already trade outside the EU already have a UK EORI number, but were told they would need a separate EU EORI number to trade with EU member states in future.
In February – a month before the original planned Brexit deadline of 29 March – HMRC said only 17% of businesses that traded with the EU had registered with an EORI number, prompting concerns that the government’s warnings that firms needed to prepare for a no-deal outcome were going unheard.
Government departments have been publishing advice for different businesses and services on a rolling basis in recent months.
The letters were sent as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Animal and Plant Health Agency announced it had designated four extra ports through which to transport protected species.
Belfast Seaport, Dover, Eurotunnel and Holyhead will be equipped to handle plants and animals given protected status under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international anti-trafficking treaty. After Brexit, rules limiting transport of these species between the UK and non-EU countries via specific CITES-designated ports will also apply to imports and exports to and from EU countries.
The announcement brings the total number of CITES-designated ports in the UK to 13, along with 14 airports and two postal routes.
Customs officials at the four ports will be authorised to handle these species, the announcement said.