Just three in ten exporters ready for no-deal Brexit, Lib Dems warn

Posted On: 
5th August 2019

Fewer than three in ten British exporters will have they paperwork they need to cope with a no-deal Brexit, Treasury figures have suggested.

The Lib Dems said the figures showed firms were not ready for the economic "harm" of Brexit.

Data obtained by the Liberal Democrats show that just over a quarter (27%) of businesses which trade solely with the European Union have been handed an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number by HMRC, a crucial requirement under customs rules.

Just 66,000 traders who do business with the EU have been given an EORI number since December 2018, despite HMRC estimates that some 245,000 firms may need one.

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Lib Dem Treasury spokesperson Chuka Umunna said the figures showed that businesses were not ready for the economic "harm" of leaving the EU.

"These figures reveal that an overwhelming majority of UK exporters to the EU are unprepared for a ‘no deal’ Brexit and will not be in a position to deal with the mountain of red tape and bureaucracy it will burden them with on 31 October," the former Labour MP said. 

"Pursuing a ‘no deal’ Brexit is wholly irresponsible political choice of the new administration for which there is no mandate and which will put businesses and jobs at risk."

But an HMRC spokesperson said the department was doing "everything we can to help businesses get ready for the UK leaving the EU".

They added: "Businesses who import or export goods need to take action, the first step of which is obtaining an EORI number (if they don’t already have one). It’s simple and free and can be done online."

The release of the data follows a long-running battle between Mr Umunna and the Treasury, which said in July that the data on EORI numbers was "not readily available".

The Lib Dems said the new figures showed that  it would take until 2021 "at the earliest" for all exporters to the EU to be registered for an EORI number if they conitnued to apply at the current rate of 10,000 per month.