Irish companies trading with UK ramp up Brexit readiness

Revenue reports boost in applications for EORI numbers to trade with ‘third country’

By Simon Carswell Sep 21 2019 / The Irish Times

 Freight in Dublin Port. File photo.  Photograph: Alan Betson
Freight in Dublin Port

The vast majority of Irish businesses importing from and exporting to the UK have registered for customs numbers that will allow them to continue trading post-Brexit, new figures show.

The Revenue Commissioners has released data on the take-up of Economic Operators and Registration Identification (EORI) numbers that show an increased levels of preparedness for the UK’s exit from the EU.

According to the “VIES” EU system for the exchange of VAT information, some 96 per cent of export trade with the UK in 2018 was carried out by businesses that now have an EORI number, while 89 per cent of the import trade with the UK in 2018 was carried out by businesses that have signed up for an EORI number.

The registration number is required for businesses to be able to trade with a “third country” or non-EU member state once the UK departs the economic bloc.

Initial registration for the numbers was slow but it has increased on the back of warnings from the Government and Revenue that businesses need to be prepared as the Brexit deadline approaches.

There was a 600 per cent increase in EORI registrations in August compared with the previous month as concern about a potential no-deal exit increased with the new Boris Johnson administration in London.

There were almost 2,700 registrations in the first 12 days of September and 15,500 in total for the year so far, compared with 2,976 for the whole of last year.

Revenue has said that more than 55,000 Irish businesses now have an EORI number out of an estimated total of about 92,000 that traded with the UK last year.

Letters were written to all these businesses earlier this year urging them to take action to prepare for Brexit and a total of 42,000 businesses were identified for follow-up phone calls.

As of September 12th, Revenue had contacted more than 21,000 businesses directly and expected to contact the remainder by the end of this month.

Customs clearance

Carol Lynch, a partner specialising in customs and trade at consultants BDO, said the increase in EORI registrations was down to a “huge push” by Revenue but it was “only the first step” in preparing for Brexit. The “more concerning” area, she said, was the “huge shortage” of external customs clearance agents to handle import and export declarations companies, and the fact that small and mid-sized firms could not afford to take on in-house customs clearance agents to complete the increased post-Brexit paperwork themselves.

Businesses have expressed concern about the surge in “red tape” costs in a no-deal Brexit scenario where they would have to complete declarations forms for the transport of goods between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Seamus Leheny, policy manager with the Freight Transport Association in Northern Ireland, has said that a Northern Ireland haulage business told him that it moves five trucks a day to the Republic and that each truck has 200 consignments of goods, which would require 1,000 customs declarations every day.

Based on a typical cost of £35 (€40) per declaration, the cost would work out at €200,000 a week, €794,000 a month and €9.5 million a year, which, Mr Leheny said, was “not sustainable” for the company.

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