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- Just one in three UK exporters to the EU has secured crucial documentation for a no-deal Brexit.
- 27% of British businesses that export to the EU have secured an EORI number, which they will need to keep trading with the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
- Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna, who obtained the information from the Treasury, said it shows "an overwhelming majority of UK exporters to the EU are unprepared for a ‘no deal’ Brexit."
- There is growing concern that British business will not be prepared for a no-deal exit on October 31.
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Less than a third of British companies that export to the European Union have secured crucial registration which they need to continue trading with the EU in a no-deal Brexit, government figures have shown.
The Treasury has published figures showing that just 27% of businesses that export to the EU have an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, which they need to trade with the EU in a no-deal exit.
The figures — obtained from the government by the Liberal Democrats — also show that if exporters to EU apply for EORI numbers at the current rate, all businesses won’t be registered until at least the beginning of 2021.
Chuka Umunna, the anti-Brexit party’s Treasury spokesperson, said the figures show 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."
He added: "Pursuing a ‘no deal’ Brexit is a wholly irresponsible political choice of the new administration for which there is no mandate and which will put businesses and jobs at risk.
"Any form of Brexit will harm the economy and put obstacles in front of UK firms which is why Liberal Democrats not only want a final say for the people on any deal but are also the only party that can get into Government which is committed to stopping Brexit altogether."
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Business leaders brace themselves for no-deal disruption
Johnson has said that the United Kingdom will leave the EU on the October 31 exit date "do or die," with or without a Withdrawal Agreement. His political advisor, Dominic Cummings, reportedly said Johnson’s government would press ahead with an October 31 exit, even if MPs voted to bring down the government before that date.
However, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) — which provides the government with independent economic analysis — warned that a no-deal Brexit would likely push the country into a recession next year.
Panic over EORIs will only add to growing concern that British business — particularly small businesses — are not prepared for a no-deal Brexit in October, and are in some cases less prepared than they were for no deal in March.
Business Insider reported earlier this year that much of the warehouse space used by companies to stockpile for a no-deal Brexit earlier this year is not available for October, as it is already booked for storing Christmas stock.
It also reported last month that a number of measures that were put in place to mitigate some effects of a no-deal Brexit in March had not been rolled over to cover a no-deal exit in October.
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Many businesses that collectively spent millions of pounds preparing for a no-deal Brexit in the spring are reluctant to do so for the autumn as they believe Brexit will be delayed again. Some businesses cannot afford to prepare again.
There is frustration among business figures over the additional no-deal Brexit funding announced by Chancellor Sajid Javid last week. Most of it covers government competencies, with very little put towards helping businesses prepare. The Institute For Government think tank pointed out that most of it probably won’t be spent before the October 31.
A senior industry figure who is in regular dialogue with the government said they feared the government would try to blame businesses in the event of no-deal disruption. "We are being set up for a bit of a fall here," they said.
A spokesperson for the HMRC — the department responsible for issuing EORI numbers — said it 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."
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