As businesses prepare for a range of potential Brexit outcomes, including a no-deal scenario, among the key considerations for businesses engaged in international trade will be the potential introduction of additional customs procedures for UK-EU trade following the UK’s departure from the EU customs union.

Pre-Brexit, only those businesses engaged in imports and exports between the EU (including the UK) and third countries require an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, which must be provided to customs authorities in order to complete the additional customs procedures and requirements involved when trading goods with countries outside the EU, such as submitting customs / import declarations upon importing goods into the EU, paying customs duties, and submitting exit summary declarations for exports.

The UK Government has issued guidance that, in the event of a no deal, all importers and exporters of goods to and from the UK will require a UK-issued EORI number in order to complete customs requirements in the UK. Many UK and EU businesses which only trade within the EU will therefore need to register for an EORI number and complete customs formalities for the first time when trading goods between the UK and EU-27. Additionally, those importers currently completing customs procedures in the UK with a non-UK EORI number (i.e., issued by another EU member state, and not beginning with “GB”), will therefore need to apply for a UK EORI number. Those UK EORI numbers issued pre-Brexit will remain valid for use in the UK.

Importantly, however, the UK guidance does not address the EU’s requirement, confirmed in the EU Commission’s guidance, that in the event of a no deal, exporters of goods from the UK to the EU will require an EU EORI number in order to complete the EU’s import customs requirements. The EU guidance is clear that importers into the remaining EU-27 will no longer be able to use UK-issued EORI numbers post-Brexit, so will need to apply for an EORI number in an EU-27 member state. Where an importer has a business establishment in an EU-27 member state, they will need to apply for an EORI number in that member state, while importers with no business establishment in the EU-27 will generally need to apply in the member state where they will first lodge a customs declaration.

Timeframes and information requirements for EORI registration vary across the EU-27, however a number of EU-27 member states permit holders of UK issued EORI numbers, or businesses with a business establishment in the UK, to apply for an EU EORI number now in advance of Brexit, which will become active upon the UK’s departure from the EU.

Therefore, businesses engaged in trade in goods between the UK and the EU are advised to consider the need to obtain both a UK and an EU EORI number to ensure they are well placed to comply with changes to UK-EU customs arrangements under a no-deal Brexit.