Trading with Europe in the post Brexit world

15th January 2019

By Steve South, Partner

It’s 2019 already and the final stretch until the UK leaves the European Union on 29 March. The news continues to be dominated by the uncertainty as to how the final landscape is going to look. So, our advice is to be practical and to continue to assess and prepare for any potential risks to your business that our departure presents.

How the Brexit will eventually impact your business will of course largely depend on whether you supply goods or services, but you should expect some change. Therefore, even though we still don’t yet know the terms of our exit and how we’ll be able to trade with our EU neighbours post 29 March and vice versa, here are a few things you can think about and do now to prepare.

Goods

Being part of the Single Market and the Customs Union, which we are at the moment means that, unless the goods are subject to particular licencing conditions such as explosives, they can move freely between the UK and the other 26 EU member states. As such no import VAT or customs duty is due when goods enter or leave the UK.

However, if the UK leaves the Single Market and/or the Customs Union there could be significant changes as border checks and import taxes may apply. Furthermore, if the UK leaves with no deal, goods exported to the EU will be subject to the same checks and taxes as those entering from non-EU countries which have no trade agreement with the EU.

What you can do now!

  • In order to evaluate the potential risks to their trade and to be prepared, if your business trades in goods with the EU, quantify how much trade you do on a country by country basis.
  • Ensure that you know how the goods are classified for Customs purposes by using the Tarrif listing which is available at www.gov.uk/trade-tariff. The list has information on the rate of Customs Duty application to goods and on other key areas such as quotas and licensing.

Services

If the UK finds itself in a no-deal Brexit situation, the impact on services, particularly those which are supplied on a business to business basis, is likely to be smaller. But, until more information is available, evaluating the risks is difficult.
Is this you? The suppliers which are most likely to be affected are those which:

  • require specific authorisation to trade;
  • transport equipment to and from the UK – the goods may become subject to some form of border control, as explained above in the section on goods;
  • supply non-VAT registered consumers in the EU;
  • are tour operators or travel agents.

Our advice is don’t adopt a “wait and see” approach but think about the impact of the Brexit outcomes on your business now. If you need any help and guidance on how to approach any of these issues, let us know as we’d be happy to help.

About the author

Steve joined Wise & Co in 1989 where he trained and qualified as a chartered accountant. He is now a general practice partner, as well as the firm’s IT partner. Steve’s experience spans a range of industry sectors and businesses of varying sizes. VAT and property remain of particular interest to him and he has advised many investors and developers alike on VAT planning and recovery. He has also been involved with many mergers and acquisitions and has assisted clients with the sale of their businesses.

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