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21 ways the Brexit trade deal could affect your business

The UK’s membership of the European Union (EU) ended on 31 January 2020, after which a Brexit transition period began, with the UK and EU seeking to negotiate a new trade agreement before the deadline of 1 January 2021.

It went right to the wire, as many predicted, but the UK and EU agreed a trade deal on 24 December 2020, described by the UK government as “preserving its zero-tariff and zero-quota access to the bloc’s [EU’s] single market”.

The actual agreement, which details new rules for “living, working and trading together”, runs to more than 1,240 pages long and it’s rather complicated in places. So, to help save you time, here’s just some of the ways the post-Brexit UK-EU trade agreement could affect your small business.                                                                            

Exporting

1. If you don’t already have one, you’ll need to get an EORI number to move goods between Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) or the Isle of Man and other countries. An EORI is used for completing customs procedures and is quoted in customs documentation.

2. You may need a separate EORI number to move goods to or from Northern Ireland. These start with the prefix XI. To get one, you must already have an EORI number that starts with GB. If you don’t have one, apply for one as soon as possible.

3. All goods exiting the UK into EU countries will require export declarations and exit Safety and Security declarations. Additional licenses/procedures will be required for many controlled goods.

4. Post Office customers posting from England, Scotland and Wales will need to attach a customs declaration label (CN22 if worth up to £270 or a CN23 if worth more) to all items containing goods being sent abroad, including EU destinations. Visit the Post Office website for more information on post-Brexit changes.

Importing

5. Rules that previously applied to imports from non-EU countries now apply to EU imports – with a few changes. The government has introduced “postponed accounting” for import VAT on goods brought into the UK, so UK VAT-registered businesses importing goods can account for import VAT on their VAT return, they don’t have to pay import VAT when or soon after the goods arrive at the UK border. This now applies to imports from EU and non-EU countries.

6. VAT on imported goods worth up to £135 is now collected at the point of sale, not the point of importation. That means UK supply VAT rather than import VAT is due on such consignments.

Customs

7. Because the UK has now left the EU Customs Union, a hard customs and regulatory border now exists between the EU and UK. This means goods will face checks and controls that could result in processing and delivery delays.

8. If you buy online from suppliers in the EU, customs duties (for deliveries worth more than £390), VAT (more than £135) and handling fees could also apply and parcels could be held until all duties and fees have been paid.

9. If you hire someone to deal with customs for you – they must be established in the UK.

VAT

10. UK VAT-registered businesses can still zero-rate sales of goods to EU businesses. EU countries will treat goods entering from the UK in the same way as those arriving from other non-EU countries. That means import VAT and any customs duties are due when goods arrive in the EU.

The UK VAT Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) is an online service that allows EU businesses that sell digital services to consumers in other EU Member States to report and pay VAT via a single return and payment in their own country. Businesses are no longer able to use the UK’s MOSS scheme to report and pay VAT on sales of digital services to consumers in the EU. A solution could be to register for the MOSS non-union scheme in one of the 27 EU Member States (which includes Ireland, of course).

Employees

11. If they’re from an EU country (except Ireland), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, your employees and their families should have already applied to continue living in the UK via the EU Settlement Scheme. If you plan to employ such people now, they may need to apply for a visa instead.

Working in the EU

12. Britons can no longer go to work and live in an EU country on the same basis as others living in that nation. Instead, they will have to rely on EU Member States’ national rules for the right to work.

13. If you drive in the EU while visiting, you’ll need to get an insurance green card, which you can request from your insurer (this can take up to six weeks). If you take your own car, a GB sticker must be displayed.

14. You won’t need a visa to visit the EU (and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) for up to 90 days (single or multiple trips), within a 180-day period.

15. You’ll need at least six months left on your passport when travelling on business to EU countries. You won’t be able to use EU lanes at airport border control.

Standards

16. UK businesses should not automatically assume that product authorisations from British organisations enable their goods to be sold in EU countries.

Data protection rules

17. The GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) no longer applies directly in the UK, but UK businesses still need to comply with its requirements, because the Data Protection Act 2018 enacts the GDPR in UK law.

The Information Commissioner’s Office website brings together guidance and resources relating to data protection and Brexit.

Consumer rights

18. If your business buys things online from EU sellers your consumer rights remain intact, although you won’t be able to enforce your rights in the EU in the UK courts. Reciprocal obligations between the UK and EU countries no longer exist for investigating breaches of consumer laws or taking forward enforcement actions. Businesses and consumers can no longer use the EU Online Dispute Resolution platform.

Intellectual property

19. Registered Community designs (RCDs) and unregistered Community designs (UCDs) are no longer valid in the UK. According to the government, these will be replaced immediately and automatically by UK rights. If you own an existing right, you do not need to do anything at this stage.

Roaming charges

20. If you or your people sometimes head to EU countries on business, the government advises checking your mobile phone provider’s roaming charges. The UK-EU trade deal does not rule out additional costs, although the biggest UK operators have said they do not plan to reintroduce roaming charges.

CE marking

21 If you sell goods within Great Britain that need CE marking, you’re going to have to replace it with UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking. You have until 1 January 2022 to do it, but UKCA marking is notrecognised in the EU, so your products will still need CE marking for sale in EU countries. 

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