New Rules for Business with the EU from 1 January 2021

Brexit has been all we have hearing about over the last couple years, until the Coronavirus pandemic raised its ugly head. Things still seem very uncertain and undecided. What we do know though is that from 1 January 2021 the transition period comes to an end.  Many of you will have received letters from the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy asking if you are ready for the new rules. For a lot of businesses there will be little change, but if you export to or import from the EU there will be changes that you need to make.

If you have looked at the guidance available, it is a minefield and with no agreement reached on what things look like on 1 January 2021 it seems a little pointless. What we would say is that the Government have said continually that there will be no extension and therefore businesses need to prepare for changes.

The assumption must be that from 1 January 2021 importing from or exporting to the EU will be very similar to importing or exporting to the rest of the world currently. There will, very likely, be a different set of rules about importing from or exporting to Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The Government have set up a website to guide you through the changes and what you need to do. There is a handy checker that will make things clearer for your business (and personally) here >. Things are very complicated, and the checker will take you through the specifics of your business and your sector. We would suggest that if you think your business is affected then running through the checker will help inform you and point you in the right direction.

There will be loads of changes in different areas of life, both in terms of business and personally. We take many things for granted now, but from January, depending on the rules that are agreed (or not agreed!), we will not enjoy free movement of people and goods within the EU. If we go on holiday in the EU, going forwards we will need a visa. Imports and Exports will be subject to customs controls and employing people from the EU will require a licence.

There is good news though. A lot of these things sound like a total nightmare, however:

  • When travelling your holiday company / flight company will deal with your visa requirements. The same as they currently do if you are travelling outside the EU
  • With Imports and Exports your courier or haulier will be used to dealing with international trade outside of the EU and will help guide you through the process and handle a lot of the paperwork that is required.
    • If you think you will Import from or Export to the EU you will probably need to have an Economic Operators Registration and Identification Number (EORI Number). If you already Import from or Export outside of the EU then you will probably already have an EORI Number, but we recommend that you talk to your courier or haulier and find out if you need to apply for one. If you need to apply for one then you can do so here >. It normally takes about a week for the EORI number to come through
    • Be aware that now we are outside of the EU then the relevant customs authorities will deal with trade tariffs and VAT. When importing, in certain circumstances such sums will need to be paid prior to your goods being released from the port
    • Customs Authorities will now have to be involved more and therefore it seems inevitable that this will create increased delays when importing or exporting. Initially such delays could be greater whilst the Authorities get used to new volumes and new procedures. Bear this in mind when importing and exporting, but again your courier or haulier should be in a better position to advise
  • Those who recruit from the EU will need to take measures and apply for a licence. Certain sectors rely on EU labour and measures are being introduced to make this simpler. Those workers already employed and eligible under the EU Settlement Scheme will not be affected

Hopefully, the information contained in this blog is useful. As no agreement has been reached with the EU, it feels difficult. However, taking a few steps like looking at the checker and speaking to your couriers / hauliers will make this feel far less uncertain and ensure that you have planned for the changes.

We are not experts, but if you have questions, send them through and we will endeavour to resolve and update other clients.

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Please be aware that we are reviewing our policy regards COVID 19 on, at least, a weekly basis.

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Best wishes and stay safe