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Importing and exporting post-Brexit
Insights and trends

Importing and exporting post-Brexit

6 min read

For years now, Brexit has been a fiery topic of conversation across the kitchen table. In this guide, we’re not here to promote the benefits of Brexit or otherwise, but we will explain how Brexit may affect imports and exports for businesses in the UK. So buckle up and get ready for our Brexit impact guide.

Brexit – the basics

On 23 June 2016, 52% of the British public voted to leave the European Union (EU). After years of negotiations, the UK and EU signed a Withdrawal Agreement on 24 January 2020, which outlined the terms of Britain’s departure, and came into effect on 31 January 2020 when Britain officially left the EU. The two sides agreed to an 11-month transition period, giving the negotiators time to agree a separate trade deal; in the meantime, EU rules still applied in the UK. Finally, after agreeing a trade deal on 24 December 2020, the new rules applied from 11pm on 31 December 2020. As we’ll explore, there are various implications in terms of how businesses must operate post-Brexit.

Consequences of Brexit for business owners

There are no shortage of Brexit consequences, whether relating to farming and fishing, or laws, national security and migration. But for the purposes of this guide we’ll look at the main impact of Brexit on businesses – large and small. These are the main areas where business owners can expect things to change:

  • Importing and exporting – After Brexit, there are new rules for importing and exporting goods between Great Britain and the EU (note that Northern Ireland has its own rules ). We’ll look in detail at the impact on importers and exporters later in this guide.
  • Staffing – Prior to Brexit, business owners could hire any EU national for a job, but the free movement of workers ended with the passing on the Immigration Act on 31 December 2020. A new immigration system took effect from 1 January 2021, which we will cover in detail.
  • Suppliers – It’s not just your own imports and exports to consider after Brexit, but that of your wider supply chain. The UK is no longer part of the EU single market and customs union, which means there are new border controls and costs that may affect lead times and availability in your supply chain.
  • Transport logistics – The goods we buy and sell travel over air, land and sea, so you should consult with the transportation companies you use, as the flow of goods may be affected by import and export declarations and rules of origin checks.
  • Data protection – If your business has customers within the UK and EU, you’ll need to follow two data protection regimes: EU GDPR and UK GDPR. Your business may need to update privacy notices and contracts to reflect your compliance with cross-border data flows. Read more.

How will Brexit affect imports and exports?

There are many changes to how businesses can import and export goods following Brexit. Perhaps the simplest way to understand what has changed is that before Brexit, there was no trade border between the

UK and EU. Now, Great Britain (but not Northern Ireland) is no longer part of the EU’s single market and customs union, which means there is now a requirement for customs paperwork when goods cross the customs border, such as at Dover. There is also now a separate VAT system which business owners should familiarise themselves with, as you may have to pay import VAT for goods arriving from the EU.

Here is a summary of the impact of Brexit on importers and exporters within England, Wales and Scotland.

Importing after Brexit

  • You will need an EORI (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) number that starts with GB. If you’re exporting to or importing from Northern Ireland, you need a second EORI number that starts with XI.
  • In order to avoid customs duties when importing from the EU, you will need a statement of origin from your EU supplier, which also confirms the value and classification of the goods .
  • You, or a customs agent working on your behalf, must declare the goods when they enter Great Britain and make arrangements to pay any VAT owed.

Read more on GOV.UK about how Brexit affects your imports.

Exporting after Brexit

  • As with importing after Brexit, you’ll need an EORI number.
  • In effect, exports to EU countries now follow similar rules to how you may currently export to a non-EU country.
  • Unlike before, you now need to make customs declarations when you export from Great Britain to the EU. You can either do this yourself, or hire someone to do it for you.

Read more on GOV.UK about how Brexit affects your exports.

Working in the UK after Brexit

As of 1 January 2021, any EU citizen you hire will need to apply for a visa, which must be granted before they can work in the UK. Any EU, EEA or Swiss citizen who was living in the UK prior to 31 December 2020 can apply to the free EU Settlement Scheme to continue living and working in the UK beyond 30 June 2021. From this date, you will be able to check an applicant’s right to work in the UK by requesting to see their status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Irish citizens retain the right to move and work freely in the UK as part of the Common Travel Area arrangement.

Will there be any advantages of Brexit for businesses?

Brexit represents a major change for the UK that, for better or worse, will have an impact on all of our lives. And while we won’t act as judge and jury on whether Brexit is a good or bad idea, it’s worth exploring some of the stated goals, and perhaps opportunities, as advocated by Brexit supporters.

For example, some argue that while the removal of a trade border with the EU has caused disruption to business, the end of free movement and the introduction of a selective, ‘points-based’ immigration policy – that ‘treats EU and non-EU citizens equally’ – will give employers more access to the skills the economy demands. There is also the prospect of future trade deals being struck with non-EU countries, which in theory, could ease the administrative burden on businesses who import and export in a post-Brexit world . For the sake of balance, some of the concerns many business owners have include the increased costs and bureaucracy when importing and exporting within the EU, especially as the EU represents around 43% of total UK exports. Others say that Britain will have less bargaining power when negotiating future trade deals than they would as a member of the EU, the world’s largest trading bloc .

How will Brexit affect me?

With all these changes underway, it’s understandable that you’ll want to know how Brexit could impact the way you do business. But of c

ourse, every company and every industry is different, so have a look at the government’s online Brexit checker for more information on everything from work and VAT to importing and exporting after Brexit.

And breathe…

We hope our guide has shed some light on the never-ending story that is Brexit, and what it means for you and your business. But there’s plenty more Tyl wisdom where that came from – read our guide to growing a business , or pricing your products , and discover how the Tyl portal (available to Tyl customers) could make number-crunching as pain-free as possible.


This has been prepared by Tyl by Natwest for informational purposes only and should not be treated as advice or a recommendation. There may be other considerations relevant to you and your business so you should undertake your own independent research.

Tyl by Natwest makes no representation, warranty, undertaking or assurance (express or implied) with respect to the adequacy, accuracy, completeness, or reasonableness of the information provided.

Tyl by Natwest accepts no liability for any direct, indirect, or consequential losses (in contract, tort or otherwise) arising from the use of the information contained herein. However, this shall not restrict, exclude, or limit any duty or liability to any person under any applicable laws or regulations of any jurisdiction which may not be lawfully disclaimed.

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