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Post Brexit-transition support for small UK businesses

Representatives from the UK government and the European Union (EU) finally agreed a trade deal on 24 December 2020, just days before the Brexit transition period was to end, following the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 January 2020.

The UK government has described the trade deal as “preserving [the UK’s] zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the bloc’s [EU’s] single market”. The agreement runs to more than 1,240 pages long and contains changes in many areas, which are rather complicated in some places.

So, where can you turn to for more information and what other support can your small business access when it comes to our new post-Brexit UK?


Government website GOV.UK contains a huge amount of post-transition Brexit-related information, including guidance on importing goods into the UK from the EU, exporting goods to the EU from the UK, moving goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland, living and working in the EU and travelling to EU countries.

You’ll also find detailed guidance on import, export and customs rules, some of which has changed significantly since 1 January 2021. If you’re new to importing and exporting, you’ll need to get an EORI number to move goods between England, Scotland and Wales or the Isle of Man and other countries. You may also need a separate EORI number if you move goods to or from Northern Ireland.

You can use the Brexit checker tool on to get personalised post-transition Brexit actions for your business.


UK Export Finance (UKEF) is the operating name of the Export Credits Guarantee Department, the UK’s export credit agency and a UK government ministerial department. Its mission is to ensure that “no viable UK export fails for lack of finance or insurance”. UKEF can help UK business to:

  • “win export contracts by providing attractive financing terms to their buyers”
  • “fulfil contracts by supporting working capital loans”
  • “get paid by insuring against buyer default”.

UKEF can support exports for “any size of company and across all sectors, from capital goods to services and intangibles such as intellectual property”.

The organisation’s export finance managers provide free and impartial consultations. They help UK businesses to “check they are getting the appropriate support and, if not, explore how to bridge any gaps”.

You can visit GOV.UK to find the export finance manager for your region. UKEF offers a wide range of products for UK exporters, including finance, guarantee schemes and insurance.

Exporting is GREAT

Exporting is GREAT is a campaign launched by the UK government’s Department for International Trade in 2015. It provides “advice and expertise to support businesses at every step on their exporting journey, from initial interest to selling in market”.

The site offers expert advice on a wide range of export topics, including how to create an export plan, find an export market, choose a route to market, get export finance and funding, manage payment for export orders, prepare to do business in a foreign country, manage export procedures and logistics and sell services overseas.

You can also read a range of market guides that “can help you find export opportunities and prepare to do business in new markets”. The site also offers a large range of services, so you can create a free business profileand promote your company to overseas buyers, sell online to customers overseas and find export opportunities.

The Federation of Small Businesses

The FSB created a Transition Hub designed to help small businesses and the self-employed to understand and “prepare for the end of the UK/EU transition period”. You can visit the site to find out about traveling to EU countries post-transition, managing currencies and what to do if your business receives personal data from the EU/EEA.

Freight forwarders, customs brokers/agents

Working for importers and exporters, freight forwarders arrange for goods to be transported safely, efficiently and cost-effectively from one country to another. Typically, they sort out other things, including packing, documentation and customs clearance.

According to GOV.UK: “One of a freight forwarder’s main functions is to arrange customs clearance of goods crossing the frontier. Freight forwarders can do this themselves or subcontract it to a company that specialises in customs broking.”

Customs agents and brokers make sure that your goods can be cleared through customs as they head to their final destination. One important change since 1 January 2021 is that if you hire someone to deal with customs for you, they must be established in the UK (visit for more). also features lists of customs agents and fast parcel operators (eg couriers or next-day parcel service providers).

Many businesses use freight forwarders, customs brokers/agents and parcel operators to take the stress out of moving goods internationally. They can also be a good source of advice for your business.

Trade association or chamber of commerce

Your trade association may be able to provide post-transition Brexit advice and support for your small business. Many have international trade experts on hand to supply information and even give tailored guidance to members.

Alternatively or additionally, your local chamber of commerce could be worth contacting, if you’re a member. The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) website includes a detailed End of Transition Checklist. You can also read “a range of resources to help your business understand and respond to the changes to the way we trade with EU countries from 1 January 2021”. There are also e-guides that explain customs declarations, rules of origin and tariffs.

According to the BCC: “Supporting trade locally, nationally, and globally is a key mission for every Accredited Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber Network has more than 350 qualified specialists, who are on hand every working day to help business and international trade to flourish.”

Your accountant

The end of the Brexit transition period brought about changes to UK VAT rules. For example, previous rules for imports from non-EU countries now apply to imports from EU countries, with a few changes. The government has introduced “postponed accounting” for import VAT on goods imported into the UK. So, UK VAT-registered businesses bringing goods into the UK can account for import VAT on their VAT return, they don’t have to pay import VAT when or shortly after the goods arrived at the UK border. This could benefit your cash flow.

There are other post-transition changes to UK VAT rules and your accountant should be able to advise you on these if you’re unsure. 

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