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How to prepare for Brexit – checklist

Read our quick-start guide, outlining a variety of areas that could impact your business, to help you start preparing for Brexit.

Page last updated

27 August 2019

While there is still no certainty around what Brexit will mean, businesses that sell to and buy from the EU need to have contingency plans in place which will need to be sufficiently flexible to cope with a variety of possible outcomes. ICAEW’s checklist covers the areas that should be considered, including movement of goods, product compliance, contracts, people, and financial planning (cash flow). These considerations reflect "no deal" being reached, but may also be relevant in other scenarios.

ICAEW members: How to prepare for a ‘no deal’ Brexit

The business checklist below outlines the business implications of Brexit. ICAEW’s Brexit hub also contains information on the technical implications of Brexit for the accountancy profession. ICAEW members should familiarise themselves with all that apply to their situation: 

There are also UK government technical notices on accounting and audit if there is no Brexit deal. Although these notices deal with a narrower range of issues than our practical guides above, they outline the legal implications of Brexit for accounting and audit:

Movement of goods

Key areas Key actions
Customs
and VAT

Action 1: Read and apply government guidance aimed at helping traders prepare for Brexit.

HMRC has issued instructions to businesses that trade between the UK and the EU-27, or with the rest of the world, to prepare for a no-deal Brexit. HMRC estimates that there are 240,000 UK businesses that trade only with the EU; they would all need to comply with customs formalities in the event of no deal.

A range of government guidance has been provided by both the UK government and the European Commission for entities that trade between the UK and the EU-27. Businesses should be aware that the guidance has been evolving since it was first issued in 2018.

The government says that importing/exporting businesses need to take these actions:

  • Check they have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number. They will need this to complete export or import documentation. HMRC sent EORI numbers to all VAT registered businesses in August 2019. If you don’t have one, you can register at  www.gov.uk/eori. UK businesses that already have an EORI number from another EU member state (one that does not start GB) can continue using it for now.
  • Decide if they want to hire an agent to make import and/or export declarations, or make them themselves by, for example, buying software that interacts with HMRC’s systems. Contact the organisation that moves their goods to see if they will need to provide any additional information to them.
  • Importers to the UK may be able to use "transitional simplified procedures". They enable customs paperwork to be completed and VAT and duties settled away from the port. But importers will need to register. They may also be able to use other customs procedures that make importing easier.
  • Get ready to comply with any instructions that may be issued by EU-member states that they export into.

VAT

There are also some actions in relation to VAT. See our guide to UK VAT implications of Brexit

Supply chains

Action 2: Know where your inputs come from, and what product category they fall into.
This will help assess the possible tariffs that might apply. Supply chain mapping is an essential step in Brexit planning.

Those who export goods from the UK to the EU, for example, should consider the implications of a worst case scenario. This would be that the UK will leave the EU without any trade deal and all exports and imports to the remaining EU countries will now be subject to tariffs under the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). It is also important to remember that 57% of UK exports go to non-EU countries and might already be subject to tariffs or quotas depending on the arrangements the EU customs union has with the destination country. Some exporters will therefore already be familiar with customs procedures, but extending them to all exports will clearly come at a cost. A more serious problem will be faced by those UK exporters who only export to the EU, for whom applying customs procedures will be entirely new. In the event of "no deal", the transitional and ongoing costs for these businesses could be considerable in the short-term.

The UK government has issued country-by-country advice for exporters. You can also find the WTO and EU third-country rates online.

For imports to the UK, the government has announced the temporary rates of customs duties (tariffs) it would apply in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Keep in mind that for major manufactured inputs you might need to consider where supplies originate.

Further reading