Brexit and international trade – What’s an EORI number and why do I need one?


Nigel Roberts

Nigel Roberts

VAT Director and Head of VAT & Duty

24 January 2019


It’s just 10 weeks until 29 March, when under current arrangements the UK will leave the European Union (EU). There is, of course, huge political uncertainty as to how Brexit will happen, but “No Deal” remains a clear possibility. If that happens, and you currently buy or sell goods within the EU, there will be immediate changes to the Customs procedures underpinning that trade. You need to take steps now to reduce the impact of those changes on your business.

HMRC has been contacting businesses which currently buy and sell goods in the EU and has highlighted steps that need to be addressed now to allow that trade to continue after 29th March. Top of the list is obtaining an EORI number – what is it, why do you need it and how do you get one?

What is an EORI number?

An EORI number is a unique identifying number assigned to individual importers and exporters to track trade between the EU and non-EU countries. It’s used during Customs processes to monitor goods movements, who’s responsible for imports and exports and any special reliefs applied. You or your freight forwarder or agent will use your EORI number when making Customs declarations.

What if I don’t have one?

If you currently import or export goods outside the EU, you almost certainly have an EORI number, as if you try and move goods into or out of the UK to a third country without an EORI number, they simply won’t clear Customs. Your goods will be held until you supply the proper paper work, which could mean big delays and additional charges. Freight forwarders won’t try and move goods without one.

What’s this got to do with Brexit?

After a No Deal Brexit, trade with the EU will be on the same terms as any other country. This will mean that import and export entries will be required, and that Customs Duty and VAT may be payable on entry. If you currently only mov goods within the EU, you’ll need an EORI number to continue to import or export goods to and from the EU after 29 March 2019.

You’ll also need an EORI number before you can apply for authorisations that may make post-Brexit Customs processes easier and less costly for you. There are several simplification regimes available which may reduce both the procedural and cost impact of this change.

HMRC have promised to provide more detail on these soon, but they are likely to mirror those currently available under the EU Customs regime – Customs warehousing, temporary import reliefs, inward and outward processing reliefs, industry specific authorised use reliefs and duty suspensions.  

How do I get an EORI number?

The application process is relatively straightforward – it can be done online via:

 www.gov.uk/hmrc/get-eori.

The process is slightly different depending on whether you are VAT registered or not and whether you will import or export goods. It is worth noting that if you’re not currently VAT registered in the UK but move goods in and out of the EU you may need to review this because of Brexit and it would be sensible to take advice now.

Currently, the application process is quick – EORI numbers are provided in a few days, but this may change in the run up to March 29th and it would be prudent to apply as early as possible.

Can you help me understand wider impact of Brexit on my business?

Yes. Johnston Carmichael has a specialist Brexit team and can help you fully understand the Customs and tax impact of Brexit. We can help you understand the steps you need to take now and can advise on the way forward as the scope of Brexit becomes clearer. Get in touch with me Nigel Roberts at nigel.roberts@jcca.co.uk or another member of our Brexit team.