Just 17 per cent of businesses who trade with the EU have registered for an Economic Operator and Registration Identification (EORI) number, new figures have revealed.
The report, published by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), shows that as few as 40,000 businesses have registered for an EORI number since October, when letters were issued reminding businesses to apply.
EORI numbers are currently used by businesses who trade with the rest of the world (not including the EU). Up until now, agreements between EU member states mean that an EORI number is not required.
However, if the UK were to leave the EU with no deal in place, UK businesses will need to apply the same processes to EU trade that apply when trading with the rest of the world. This means registering for an EORI number.
The latest figures suggest that some 145,000 VAT-registered businesses, as well as an additional 95,000 non-VAT registered businesses, need to start their preparations and take immediate action.
The Government said the first step is registering for an EORI number to continue trading with the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The second step is considering how businesses want to make customs declarations (most business owners appoint a customs agent to take care of all their customs obligations).
The third and final step is for businesses that import goods into the UK from the EU, using roll on, roll off locations. HMRC said businesses can register for new Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP), to allow businesses to import without having to make a full customs declaration at the border, and postpone paying any import duties.
Commenting on the report, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride said: “We want businesses to be able to continue trading with minimal disruption in any scenario but we also know that people tend to leave things until the last minute and we would urge against that.
“We are specifically advising businesses to take some simple steps to be prepared – the first thing they need to do is register for an EORI number – it is free and takes less than 10 minutes.”
If you need help registering for an EORI number or require urgent advice on preparing for all possible Brexit outcomes, please get in touch with our expert team.