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Updated: 29th February 2020

Preparing for Brexit: EORI Numbers

What is an EORI number?

An EORI number, or Economic Operators Registration and Identification number function as an identification number for those businesses who participate in importing or exporting goods into or out of the EU. Every company is given their own unique EORI number which must be quoted on a variety of official forms and correspondence including customs declarations and clearances.

EORI numbers and Brexit

For UK registered companies who trade exclusively within EU countries, an EORI number was not required due to the UK forming part of the free trade area. This meant that tariffs did not apply and therefore an EORI number was not needed to pass goods across EU borders. However, Britain’s decision to leave the EU has changed the position when it comes to importing and exporting within Europe.

With the country on the cusp of exiting the EU, and without a deal as yet in place, businesses need to be prepared for how this scenario may affect how they operate and trade. Should the UK no longer be part of the free trade area, an EORI number will be needed to import or export goods across any EU country.

This ruling will apply to all UK businesses regardless of their size or the frequency with which it trades within the EU. Limited companies, sole traders, and partnerships will all be required to obtain one. With UK businesses being urged to take action to ensure they can continue to trade with EU countries with minimal disruption going forward after Brexit, the message is that procuring an EORI number needs to be part of this preparation process.

Simply put, if your company does not have its own unique EORI number then you will not be allowed to move goods in or out of the UK legally in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

It should be noted here that EORI numbers are only required when importing or exporting physical goods; industries which are purely service-based will not be affected.

"With the country on the cusp of exiting the EU, and without a deal as yet in place, businesses need to be prepared for how this scenario may affect how they operate and trade."

How do I obtain an EORI number for my company?

Some companies, particularly those which are registered for VAT, may have already been issued with an EORI number. If this is the case then you will not need to reapply for another one as EORI numbers are linked to the company they’re issued to perpetually.

If you do have an existing EORI number you should check that you have one which begins with ‘GB’; this denotes that the number was issued within Britain. It may be a possibility that your EORI number was issued in another EU country – in this case, you will need to apply for a UK number as HMRC has not guaranteed how long you will be able to continue using it following Britain’s departure from the EU.

Applying for an EORI number is a relatively straightforward process which can be done in less than ten minutes. The application is completed entirely online and an EORI number will typically be issued within three days, however, it is often this is generated immediately upon completing the application.

Automatic issuing of EORI numbers

Obtaining an EORI number used to be a manual process, as explained above; however, in order to mitigate the fallout of a no-deal Brexit, VAT registered companies are now being issued with one automatically. This was done in response to the fact that awareness of the new EORI requirement was worryingly low, with surprisingly few companies taking the necessary steps to apply for one.

Around 80,000 businesses have been issued with their EORI numbers as part of this process, however, this still leaves many thousands of companies which are not VAT registered but who partake in importing and exporting within the EU. These businesses will not be automatically issued with EORI numbers, and the onus is on them to register themselves if they want to continue trading within the EU. Unfortunately many companies who are involved in trading within the EU are still unaware that they will need to obtain a UK EORI.

The uncertainty caused by Brexit has affected a huge number of businesses across a variety of sectors, and with negotiations still not settled and a general election looking increasingly likely, more upheaval could well be on the way. Ensuring your business is as prepared as possible for Brexit is absolutely vital in order to maintain trade and operations across Europe.

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