The British Chambers of Commerce has said that many UK businesses are under-prepared for Brexit, which will see the UK leave the EU single market and customs union.

EU trading post-Brexit

The UK’s Brexit transition period ends on 31 December 2020. When the new year arrives, businesses who import goods into the UK from the EU, and who export goods from the UK to the EU, must abide by new rules. Amongst other things, businesses will need to complete customs declarations using a unique identifier number known as an EORI number.

However, a survey conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce found that of its 480 members, only 39% had checked to see whether they will need to complete customs declarations come 1 January 2021. Just 21% had trained staff to deal with the new requirements, and fewer than half of those who traded internationally had an EORI number.

“Inconsistent approach to communication”

Liam Smyth, the British Chambers of Commerce’s director of trade facilitation, blamed the government’s “inconsistent approach to communication”. He said: “Government must address the unanswered questions that remain around the way businesses move goods, services, people and data in the short time left before the end of the transition period.”

Certainly, many businesses have felt unable to prepare for Brexit due to the lack of information and shifting of goalposts. For some, the coronavirus pandemic has also consumed the time – and funds – that had been set aside for Brexit preparations. Mr Smyth urged businesses to secure their new customs arrangements now, to “avoid damaging disruption in January 2021.”

Demand for new customs declarations

There are also concerns that the government itself is not ready. Only a few weeks from now, new customs declarations are expected to rise from 55 million to 300 million. If there are not enough customs agents to process the paperwork, then there will be significant delays in the UK’s supply chain.

In response, the government has made £85m available to help firms deal with new customs declarations, including £50m to recruit an anticipated 50,000 new customs agents. Checks will be phased in over a six-month period, and ‘the UK’s new start: let’s get going’ campaign has been launched, outlining the actions businesses need to take prior to 31 December 2020.

Are you ready?

The government has said it will be “intensifying…engagement with businesses” over the coming weeks. Even so, there is precious little time left to prepare for the new EU trading rules. Those who do not have their paperwork in order could be fined and goods could be seized – adding further stress to what has already been a very difficult 12 months for businesses.

At Altion Law, we can help those who fall foul of the new EU trading rules and have their goods seized as a result. We appreciate that compliance has been a difficult task under the circumstances. Any mistakes are likely to be genuine errors. We can guide you through this evolving situation, applying our legal expertise to secure the restoration of your goods.

For a confidential discussion with our solicitors, please contact us today at Altion Law.

Call us on 01908 414990 or complete our online enquiry form and we will get back to you.