U.K. Steps Up Brexit Preparedness for Firms as Deadline Looms

Alex Morales

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British exporters are to be enrolled in a key customs system so they can trade with the European Union after Britain’s scheduled departure on Oct. 31.

The U.K. tax authority will automatically issue more than 88,000 companies with an Economic Operator Registration and Identification number over the next two weeks, the Treasury said in a statement on Wednesday. Without it, the firms would no longer be able to trade with the EU after exit day.

“This will help ease the flow of goods at border points and support businesses to trade and grow,” Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said.

EORI numbers are required to move goods into or out of the EU. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs estimated earlier this year that 240,000 companies would need one after Brexit, and to date just 72,000 have sought one. That left tens of thousands of firms at risk of being cut off from their only export market.

Until now, the onus had been on companies to register. The automatic registration program only applies to companies that are Value Added Tax-registered. Those that aren’t will have to complete the registration themselves, according to the Treasury.

The British Chambers of Commerce, which had campaigned for automatic issuance of EORI numbers, welcomed the measure but said it’s only a “first step” that will “trigger more questions.”

“Businesses still need clarity on many other cross-border trade issues, such as customs procedures at borders following a no deal exit and when the government will launch an official database to provide ease of access to information on tariffs and quotas,” Director General Adam Marshall said. “The government must urgently provide answers to these questions, and ramp up both guidance and support for businesses.”

Separately, the government said it was making an additional 9 million pounds ($10.9 million) available to ensure major ports and surrounding areas are ready for Brexit.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Andrew Atkinson, Stuart Biggs

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