Doing business with the EU? Here’s a simple guide to the rules post BREXIT

After the UK left the EU, new rules for businesses came into effect on the 1st January this year. Although a deal has been secured, doing business with Europe has changed and there’re steps to take to avoid disruption. 

The new rules you’ll need to follow impact exports, imports, tariffs, hiring, data and qualifications. You can also find out which rules affect you and get personalised and prioritised actions for your business.

Here are the actions you need to take in order to keep your business moving:

Exports, imports, tariffs

Businesses that import and export goods between the EU and Great Britain

See next section for Northern Ireland as different rules apply

To continue trading with the EU, you will need to follow new rules for importing and exporting, including changes to customs processes and licensing. Before you move your goods, you will need to:

  • Get ready to make customs declarations – these are now needed for all exports from the UK and if you’re importing controlled goods. If you import goods that are not controlled, you may be able to delay making your declarations for up to six months. There is a step-by-step guide to help with exports and a step-by-step guide to help with imports.
  • Get expert help – it is recommended you get a contract in place as soon as you can with a customs intermediary like a freight forwarder or customs broker. This is especially important if you’re exporting or importing controlled goods, as you will not be able to delay your declarations.
  • Get ready to classify your goods – you’ll need to know how to classify your goods and how you will evidence their origin. If you hire a customs intermediary they will be able to help you make sure your goods are classified correctly. If you choose not to hire an intermediary, you will need to do this yourself. In the case, you do not classify your goods correctly or if you do not accurately record the origin of the goods in your customs declaration, you may be charged the wrong amount of tax or duty.

Businesses that move goods into, out of or through Northern Ireland

On 1st January the Northern Ireland Protocol came into force. There are special rules which only apply in Northern Ireland so if you move goods into, out of or through Northern Ireland make sure you check the latest Northern Ireland Protocol guidance.

If you move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the free-to-use Trader Support Service will guide you through any changes linked to the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. You can sign up online to the Trader Support Service.


Businesses that employ staff from the EU

The way you hire from the EU has changed. Freedom of movement between the EU and UK has ended and the UK has introduced a new points-based immigration system.

  • If you want to hire anyone from outside the UK’s resident labour market, you must be a Home Office licenced sponsor. This includes recruiting people from the EU.
  • Anyone coming to the UK to work will need a job offer from a licenced sponsor before and will need to meet certain skills and salary criteria.
  • The new system doesn’t apply when hiring Irish citizens, or EU citizens eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme. You can find out more on the Government’s dedicated hiring portal.

Businesses that already employ EU citizens living in the UK

There are new requirements for EU citizens living and working in the UK.

EU, EEA or Swiss citizens living in the UK before 31 December 2020 can apply with their family to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living and working in the UK after 30 June 2021. They can use the Government’s online tool to know what to do and when. 


Businesses that transfer data between the UK and the EU

Be prepared on data protection and data transfers.

If your business or organisation receives personal data from the EU/EEA, you must check the current guidance on lawfully continuing to receive personal data such as names, addresses or payroll details from organisations in the EU or EEA. More information on what action you need to take regarding data protection and data flows with the EU/EEA.

Interactive tool for small businesses

When the transition period ended on 31 December 2020, most of the UK data protection rules affecting small businesses stayed the same. But if you have contacts or customers in the EEA, EU rules may apply. 

There is an online checklist for UK sole traders and small business owners that you can use to understand whether the end of the transition period affects you, and find out what you need to do.


Businesses that deliver services between the UK and the EU

Make sure your EU-qualified staff can continue to provide professional services to clients in the UK by ensuring their professional qualification(s) are recognised by the relevant regulatory or professional body in the UK. There are guidelines on how to get professional qualifications obtained in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein recognised in the UK.

To continue to practise or service clients in the EU, you will need to make sure your UK qualifications are recognised by the relevant EU regulatory or professional body. You will need to do this even if you are providing short-term or occasional professional services. Where a qualification has already been recognised by the relevant regulator in the EEA or Switzerland, you should make sure you understand the terms of the recognition decision by checking with that regulator. You can find out more information on the Government’s website here.

Personalised and prioritised actions for your business

You can find out which rules affect you and get personalised and prioritised actions for your business by using the Brexit Checker Tool.

Some businesses can also apply for the SME Brexit Support Fund, a grant created to help small and medium-sized businesses new to importing or exporting. On the Government’s dedicated page for the SME Brexit Support Fund, you can check how to apply, who is eligible to apply and what the grant can be used for.

Photo by Joseph Frank, published on Unsplash

Valentine Hutchings

Valentine Hutchings

Head of Community and small business enthusiast

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