HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will automatically enrol all businesses into the non-EU customs system in an effort to prepare them for a no-deal Brexit, it has been announced.
The tax office said all 88,000 VAT-registered businesses yet to apply will be automatically allocated an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number.
An EORI number is used to trade with jurisdictions outside of the UK, but trading agreements meant that an EORI number was not required if trading within the EU.
However, if businesses do not have an EORI number come a no-deal Brexit, they will be unable to continue to trade with EU member states.
The number enables customs authorities to identify businesses for VAT and other trading purposes.
Commenting on the announcement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid said: “As the government accelerates its preparation to leave the EU on 31st October, it’s right businesses are prepared too.
“There can be no time for delay which is why HMRC has allocated thousands of businesses with a trading number to ensure they can continue to trade their goods through Europe from day one.
“This will help ease the flow of goods at border points and support businesses to trade and grow.”
The news comes after the trade association, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), campaigned for the automatic allocation of EORI numbers.
Describing the move as a “win” for businesses, FSB Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Automatically issuing EORI numbers to all VAT-registered small firms that trade exclusively with the EU is a vital intervention in preparing small traders for a no-deal Brexit and will be one less thing for them to worry about.
“It will also allow small business importers to the EU to take advantage of easements such as transitional simplified procedures.”
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