How to prepare for the new rules on trade

THE clock is ticking towards the end of the year, and for UK businesses that means significant changes in the way we trade with Europe.

Even the smallest business needs to prepare for the new rules on importing and exporting, which will come into force from 1 January 2021, as the UK transition period ends and we exit the EU single market and customs union.

The new rules apply to everyone – from retail companies across the UK that sell to customers in Europe on a day-to-day basis, to businesses trading in consumer goods, metals and materials. All businesses will be affected by the changes.

If your firm trades with Europe then it’s time to put the paperwork in order, because trading conditions are changing. The best place to start is the Government’s website,

Retailers must identify the changes to be made for manufactured goods, such as new marking and labelling requirements, as well as changes to their legal responsibilities.

You’ll also need to be up to speed on the level of tax that applies to your goods.

These Government guides to the process will tell you what’s needed for imports from January 2021 and how to prepare to export from January 2021.

There are other rules to consider when trading between Great Britain and the EU too. From 1 January 2021 you’ll need to make customs declarations when exporting goods to the EU, in line with normal protocol for the rest of the world.

You can make the declarations yourself, but you may find it easier to use a courier, freight forwarder or customs agent.  Many firms are seeking specialist help because getting it wrong could lead to delays and financial penalties.  Appoint someone else to deal with customs on your behalf here.

Businesses will also need the correct Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number that starts with ‘GB’ to export, plus a licence or certificate to export a wide variety of goods from the UK – from timber to live animals and diamonds. If you don’t have a number, or yours doesn’t start with a ‘GB’, you can apply for a new EORI number here.

Elsewhere, businesses that meet set criteria will be able to apply for Approved Trader Status (ATS). Having ATS status allows businesses to receive fewer inspection visits and reduced checks on imports and exports. ATS traders will be subject to an annual audit by the Horticulture Marketing Inspectorate to confirm they are maintaining the required standards.

EU businesses importing goods from the UK will also need to prepare. Check they can make the necessary import customs declarations before dispatching anything.

The Northern Ireland Protocol will come into force at the end of the transition period on 1 January 2021. This will help keep goods flowing freely between Northern Ireland and Great Britain while ensuring we avoid a hard border with Ireland.  There will be special rules that apply only in Northern Ireland, while the Protocol is in force. To check the latest guidance on moving goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland, visit for more information.

If you move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Trader Support Service (TSS) will guide you through any changes. The TSS provides a free-to-use digital platform to help businesses and traders of all sizes navigate the upcoming changes to the way goods move. More than 16,000 businesses have already signed up. Traders can sign up for the TSS to receive full guidance and support on the next steps to take ahead of 1 January 2021.

For manufacturers, the UK has established a new trade remedies system. This will investigate claims of unfair import practices and surges of imports, helping to protect UK businesses from financial damage caused by subsidies and other practices, such as dumping.

Taking a few simple steps now you will help keep your company running smoothly from 1 January 2021.

The Government website will guide you through all these points, step by step. To keep your business moving, visit

Swipe on the image below to discover the urgent actions to take right now in your industry sector.




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