Preparing your online business for Brexit: A Checklist

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On 1st January 2021, the UK will have officially come to the end of the transition period for leaving the EU. This means that UK businesses that import from or ship products to the EU will need to ensure they are prepared for any changes in the way they do business. Below you’ll find a brief Brexit checklist of some things you can do to ensure you’re on the right path come the 1st of January. 

✅ Change your VAT settings

The UK’s pre-Brexit VAT rules were introduced as a condition of being a part of the EU. As the UK prepares to leave, this means that VAT rules within the UK could change.

Some have speculated that the UK could reduce the VAT rate to a lower 15% for corporations to attract investment and offset some of the impacts of Brexit. 

Although the UK’s VAT future is uncertain, you will want to ensure that your online shop has VAT categorised separately for purchases made from the UK and EU countries. 

If you have specific concerns about how VAT rules may affect your business moving forward, you should consult the gov.uk website for official guidance, or it may be worth contacting an accountant. 

✅ Check your global tariff

The UK Global Tariff will replace the current common external tariff and will apply to any imported goods from 1st January 2021. Depending on what country your goods are imported from, you may see in increase, decrease or the tariffs may remain the same. 

The UK Global Tariff will apply to all goods unless the goods:

  • Are from a developing country that is part of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences
  • Are from a country with a trade agreement with the UK
  • Have a relief or tariff suspension. 

Gov.uk has provided a self-service tool to find out how the Global Tariff will affect your business

✅ Ensure you have an EORI number

If your business already moves goods between the UK and on-EU countries, you likely already have an EORI number. However, from 1st January, you will also need one to move goods from the UK to the EU. You may also need a separate EORI number if you move goods to or from Northern Ireland. 

If you do not have an EORI number, you risk cost increases and delays (for example if your goods are not cleared by HMRC you may be required to pay storage fees. 

If your (UK based) business already has an EORI number, ensure that it starts with GB. If it does not, you will need to apply for a new one

Full guidance on who needs an EORI number and how to apply for one can be found by visiting the gov.uk website.

✅ Check your products against the list of controlled goods

Up until 30 June 2021, most imported goods can be recorded in your records without prior authorisation. However certain controlled goods must follow the rules for import declarations

An example of such goods are excise goods (like alcohol or tobacco), controlled drugs, chemicals, fishery products, fertilisers, firearms and more. The full list, as well as guidelines on how to declare controlled goods, can be found via gov.uk. 

✅ Check with overseas suppliers shipping companies

While you’re taking care of things for your business, don’t forget that other businesses in your supply or delivery chain will be doing the same. It is important to reach out to any international suppliers to ensure that they are compliant and prepared for the Brexit deadline, as well as consulting with any shipping companies you use to import/export goods to check for things like price increases. 

For more information on how to prepare for Brexit and to read updates as they are announced, consult the gov.uk website for official guidance.


If you’d like to learn more about setting up your own online shop, read on for more insights into running your own online business here.