HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in the UK has automatically enrolled thousands of British businesses in a new customs system in a bid to prevent any trade disruption in the post-Brexit period.
Around 88,000 companies will be issued with an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number by letter within the next two weeks, with some set to arrive as early as today (August 21st 2019).
Up to now only 72,000 British businesses were thought to have EORI numbers, even though around 240,000 are expected to require this status by the time Britain leaves the European Union on October 31st 2019.
Without their EORI number, firms would be unable to carry on trading with other EU member states and could have goods confiscated at British ports and airports.
Commenting on this new development, chancellor Sajid Javid said: "There can be no time for delay. This will help ease the flow of goods at border points and support businesses to trade and grow."
Trade groups have welcomed the move, although some have questioned whether or not it has come too late.
British Chambers of Commerce director-general Adam Marshall said: "The proportion of firms applying for EORI numbers was concerningly low, and automatic issuance will help ease the administrative burden facing companies in the weeks and months ahead."
The news comes after figures obtained from the Treasury by the Liberal Democrats earlier this month showed fewer than three in ten businesses that export from the UK would have the necessary paperwork in place to continue trading if Britain left the EU without a deal.
It also flagged up the fact that many had failed to apply for an EORI number, something that may have prompted HMRC's move this week.
If you have any concerns about cross-border trade issues such as customs procedures at borders following Brexit or access to information on tariffs and quotas, please do not hesitate to contact MIC for advice specifically tailored to your business.