Frequently Asked Questions about Brexit for Business

Find answers to your most pressing questions about the UK’s exit from the EU and how it could impact your business.

These FAQs were last updated in January 2021.

A trade and cooperation agreement has been reached between the UK and the EU, however, the coming months are likely to remain an uncertain time for businesses as they adapt to new rules. We’ve compiled common business customer queries into a series of FAQs, with clear answers and links to further information where relevant.

The questions cover general enquiries, business strategy, operations and business practices, supply chain management, financing and investments.

If you have a question not covered here, please speak to your Relationship Manager or Business Relationship Team.

We have signed the Government’s SME Finance Charter to demonstrate our ongoing support to SMEs through Brexit and beyond. Read the charter to find out more.

Not a business? If you’re a personal customer, take a look at our personal Brexit FAQs for the most frequently asked questions about our products and services relating to Brexit.

General FAQs

 

1. What was the outcome of the trade talks between the UK and the EU?

On 24 December 2020, the UK and the EU agreed a deal on trade and other issues. Central to this is the agreement not to apply any tariffs to goods that are traded between the UK and EU, subject to certain exclusions, most notably around the origin of the product and its component parts.

See full details of the agreements between the UK and EU.

Useful further reading:

BBC - Brexit deal: What is in it?

Deloitte - The UK-EU trade deal - our early analysis of what’s included.

European Commission - EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement: A new relationship, with big changes (PDF, 263KB).

See how the deal with the EU affects your business using the Government’s Brexit checker tool

See the CBI’s Brexit Bulletin.

 

2. How does the trade agreement differ from the UK and EU’s pre-Brexit trading relationship?

The UK and the EU have agreed a free trade agreement, meaning many goods can be traded between the two parties with no tariffs and no quotas,  subject to certain exclusions, most notably around the origin of the product and its component parts.

However, there will be extra safety checks and customs declarations at the border, which businesses need to prepare for.

In terms of trading services, UK firms have lost their automatic right of access to the single market.

There will also no longer be automatic recognition of professional qualifications, for example, for doctors, nurses and architects.

See full details of the agreements between the UK and EU.

 

3. What opportunities will the trade agreement bring for my business?

The EU is the UK’s biggest trading partner and the deal covers trade which was worth £668 billion in 2019, according to the UK Government.

The deal means that businesses can trade with Europe without any tariffs or limits on the amount of goods they can import or export, as long as they meet certain provisions, specifically rules of origin requirements.

However, businesses will still need to follow new import and export rules, including around making customs declarations. It’s important to check the new rules and see what impact they will have on your business and whether they affect how attractive the EU is as a trading partner.   

Use the Government’s Brexit Checker tool.

 

4. I don’t trade with Europe, so Brexit won’t affect me, will it?

Even if you don’t trade with suppliers or customers in the EU, or countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), you may experience the knock-on effects of the new rules for living, working, travelling and doing business in the UK and EU that affect your suppliers and customers. Your employees are also likely to be affected if they are from the EU.

Checks will be needed on goods crossing the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, which businesses will need to be prepared for.

You may want to review your supply chain and your customer base, identify any risks and take steps, wherever possible, to mitigate them. You might want to make more use of domestic suppliers, for example.

Whatever your current trade arrangements, review your business strategy in light of Brexit and consider any opportunities in terms of international trade both with Europe and beyond.

You may also want to reassure your EU workers that they are welcome and that they will be able to apply for ‘settled status’ under the EU Settlement Scheme.

To find out more about the opportunities for international trade, visit the Lloyds Bank International Trade Portal.

To keep up to date on any new regulations coming in 2021, visit GOV.UK.

 

5. What is the new UK Global Tariff and what will it mean for my business?

For imports into the UK from countries which don’t have a trade agreement with the UK, the new UK Global Tariff (UKGT) replaced the EU’s Common External Tariff from 1 January 2021. 

It is described by the Government as a ‘simpler, easier to use and lower tariff regime’ and is aimed at reducing red tape and cost pressures. It will be in pounds rather than euros.

Key features of the UKGT include:

• Removing the Meursing table, which is currently used to determine which tariff code, and therefore how much duty, is applicable to goods when importing them. This will allow the UK to scrap tariff variations on various products including biscuits, pizzas and confectionary.

• Eliminating tariffs on a wide range of products, including products such as copper alloy tubes and screws and bolts which are used in UK production, potentially cutting costs to businesses and consumers.

• Maintaining tariffs on a number of products backing key UK industries, including agriculture, automotive and fishing.

See more about the UKGT.

Use the UK Global Tariff tool to check the tariff that will apply to goods you plan to import from 1 January 2021 

 

6. How will business travel to Europe be affected by Brexit?

Rules around travel have changed – from 1 January 2021 you’ll need at least six months left on your passport to travel to most EEA countries.

UK nationals may need a visa, work permit or other documentation to stay in most EU countries, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein for longer than 90 days within a 180-day period, or if they plan to:

• transfer from the UK branch of a company to a branch in a different country (‘intra-corporate transfer’), even for a short period of time

• carry out contracts to provide a service to a client in another country in which their employer has no presence

• provide services in another country as a self-employed person.

If you have a paper rather than photocard driving licence you will need an International Driving Permit to drive in the EU from January 2021.

See how to get an International Driving Permit

If you are going to provide professional services like legal services on your trip, you’ll need to check that your qualifications are recognised.

See Government guidance on travelling to Europe from January 2021 – and check the additional requirements for business travel.

New-style passports started being issued from March 2020, although the process is being phased. If you have an existing passport that has ‘European Union’ printed on the cover, you’ll be able to continue using it until it expires.

See information on passport rules post-Brexit.

If you’re taking goods abroad with you to sell or use for business purposes, you’ll need to make a customs declaration. There is a different process for temporarily taking goods into the EU, for example for a trade show.

See how to make a customs declaration.

See more about temporarily taking goods into the EU.

From 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU has ended. Travellers will need to check what roaming charges may apply.

 

7. What effect will Brexit have on cards and payments?

The European Payments Council (EPC) has confirmed that the UK will maintain participation in the SEPA geographic scope after 31 December 2020, meaning it will still be possible to send or pay with euros electronically. There will, however, be some extra rules made applicable to transactions, e.g. extra transaction details will need to be provided, such as the payer’s address. Payments may also take longer to process, so it may be a good idea to make transfers well in advance of any payment deadlines.

You may be charged more for using credit or debit cards to pay for things in euros when buying from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway. Payments may also take longer to process.

You can get help to manage your payments efficiently with Lloyds Bank Payment Services.

 

8. Do the GDPR regulations still apply to the UK?

The General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force in May 2018, is an EU regulation so technically it no longer applies to the UK after 31 December 2020. 

However, the UK Data Protection Act 2018 implemented GDPR into UK law, and no substantial changes to data protection standards have been made since.

The EU version of GDPR will still cover companies that operate in the EU or have EU residents as customers.

Business practices and sectors

 

1. Which sectors are most likely to be affected by Brexit? And will the impact on the service sector be different from that on manufacturers?

Businesses that trade heavily in goods or services with the EU or that are heavily regulated, are likely to feel the most significant impact from the regulatory changes introduced in 2021.

These are likely to include agriculture, financial services, food and drink, automotive and chemical engineering - however any impact will depend on an organisation’s own circumstances.

Businesses which employ substantial numbers of staff from the EU or rely on short-term labour from overseas will be affected by new visa requirements and the points-based immigration system.

The services industry is likely to experience a significant impact, as under the terms of the deal it has now lost its guaranteed access to the EU single market, meaning some companies may need to apply to be allowed to operate in specific EU countries.

 

2. What is a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification number and will I have to register for one?

An Economic Operator Registration and Identification, or EORI, number is a unique ID code required by businesses that trade goods with countries outside the EU.

In the UK, an EORI number is allocated to an importer or exporter by HMRC. It provides information to customs authorities as part of EU security measures on shipments.

From 1 January 2021 you’ll need an EORI number starting with GB to trade outside of the UK, including with EU countries. This does not apply if you are trading between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. If you already have an EORI number, you’ll be able to continue using it. If you move goods to or from Northern Ireland, you’ll also need an EORI number that starts with XI, in addition to your GB number.

You won’t need an EORI number if you only provide services.

You can apply for an EORI number online at GOV.UK.

 

3. I import and/or export goods from/to the EU – what new rules do I have to follow?

UK businesses trading with the EU now have to make custom declarations as they do when trading with the rest of the world. You’ll also need an EORI number starting with GB.

Find out how to make customs declarations.

Get an EORI number

Importing and exporting certain goods may also require a special licence or certificate, or you may need to pay an inspection fee before goods are allowed into the UK.

See more about import licences, certificates and inspection fees.

See more about export licences and certificates.

Under the terms of the trade deal between the UK and the EU, products which originate in the EU or UK will be eligible for preferential rates of duty. You will have to prove that your goods comply with the rules of origin.

See more about claiming preferential rates of duty between the UK and EU

Since January 2021, you are able to charge customers 0% VAT on goods you export to the EU.

See if you can charge 0% VAT.

The Government has also issued updated guidance on how the GB-EU border will operate after the end of the transition period.

The changes will be implemented in three stages leading up to 1 July 2021.

See the new border operating model.

 

4. I trade goods in/out of Northern Ireland – what new rules do I have to follow?

The Northern Ireland Protocol that came into force on 1 January 2021 introduced changes to the way goods move between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

See Government guidance on moving goods in to, out of, or through Northern Ireland.

The UK Government has launched a free Trader Support Service which can help businesses moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or bringing goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK by raising declarations on their behalf. If you trade with Northern Ireland, you’ll need an EORI number that starts with XI.

Sign up to the Trader Support Service.

 

5. How have employment rules changed for UK-based EU citizens?

Around 3.6 million EU nationals live in the UK. Those already working in the UK can apply for ‘settled status’ to remain indefinitely if they’ve been here for five years.

Those who have been in the UK for less than five years can apply for ‘pre-settled status’, and qualify for full settled status once they’ve lived in the UK for five years.

The deadline for applications to the EU Settlement Scheme is 30 June 2021.

From 1 January 2021, a new points-based immigration system applies. To apply for a skilled worker visa, applicants will have to prove they have a job offer for a position at a required skill level, from an approved employer sponsor. They’ll also need to be able to speak English and earn a minimum salary.

There won’t be an immigration route for lower skilled workers, although the seasonal agricultural visa pilot scheme will be extended.

To avoid the risk of discrimination, you can’t ask job applicants to show their EU settlement scheme status until after 30 June 2021.

Until this date, you’ll need to check employees’ rights to work in the same way you did before 1 January 2021. This can involve checking their passport or national identity card, using the online right to work checking service, or checking an approved immigration status document.

Learn more about the new points-based immigration scheme.

Apply to be an approved employer sponsor.

The Government’s EU Settlement Scheme Employer Toolkit aims to help employers provide support and information to any EU employees.

 

6. How can my business prepare for any regulatory changes as a result of Brexit?

It’s important that all businesses take steps to prepare for how any future regulatory changes as a result of Brexit will affect them.

Under the terms of the new relationship with the EU, the UK has greater power to establish its own legal and regulatory framework.

Under the terms of the trade deal, there are a number of level playing field measures which commit both parties to maintaining common standards when it comes to workers’ rights and various other social and environmental standards.

There are also various new regulations around travel, importing and exporting, and employing EU citizens that have come into force now the transition period has ended.

The first step for businesses is to consider how exposed you are to any risks associated with changes after the transition period. Look at the possible impact on your supply chain, exports, customers and customer demand, stakeholders and workforce.  

The British Chambers of Commerce has put together a Post-Transition Brexit checklist (PDF, 463KB) highlighting key areas to consider, including future staffing requirements and any potential delays at borders. This can help you put in place measures to mitigate the risks, ensuring you have the skills needed, the correct customs documentation and provisions to cope with currency volatility.

The Government has launched an interactive tool to help businesses assess if they are ready for new rules and regulations in 2021.

 

7. Who do I need on a business task force to help navigate the first few months of new regulations?

In the same way you would plan for a major incident or takeover, you should consider establishing a core team to manage your Brexit strategy. This team will help you navigate the new regulations in 2021.

According to the CBI, 82% of large businesses – and a third of firms overall – have set up an internal Brexit task force or steering group to project-manage preparations.

To be most effective, your task force should be made up of representatives from key functions across your business, not just senior management. This includes people who deal with the supply chain, procurement, marketing, sales, governance, HR and financial planning.

Smaller companies that don’t have as many resources may wish to bring on board experts from legal firms and business associations to help them gain a greater understanding of what Brexit means for them.

 

8. What are the HR and employee issues I need to consider?

It’s unlikely that there will be immediate changes to employment law as a result of Brexit. Much of the regulation is enshrined in domestic law, and powers from EU regulations have been brought under UK law in the EU Withdrawal Act.

However, businesses that employ EU nationals will need to understand the implications of Brexit for workers.

EU workers who are resident in the UK can apply for ‘settled status’ after five years under the EU Settlement Scheme or ‘pre-settled status’ beforehand. The Government has produced a toolkit that employers can use to communicate the scheme to employees.

See the EU Settlement Scheme Employer Toolkit on GOV.UK.

Since 1 January 2021, a new points-based immigration system applies. To apply for a skilled worker visa, applicants have to prove they have a job offer for a position at a required skill level, from an approved employer sponsor. They also need to be able to speak English and earn a minimum salary. It’s advisable that employers wanting to hire from the EU apply to be an approved employer sponsor as soon as possible.

Apply to be an approved employer sponsor.

It’s important to note that, despite changing rules around living and working in the UK, businesses will need to continue to check employees’ right to work in the same way you do now until 30 June 2021. This can involve checking new hires’ passports or national identity cards, using the online right to work checking service, or checking an approved immigration status document.

To avoid the risk of discrimination, you can’t ask job applicants to show their EU settlement scheme status until after 30 June 2021.

Learn more about the new points-based immigration scheme.

 

9. My business is with the public sector. What impact is Brexit likely to have on my market?

A new e-notification service called Find a Tender is being used to post and view public sector procurement notices. This replaces the requirement to publish notices in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Under the Government Procurement Agreement (GPA), businesses from other GPA countries will be able to bid for certain procurement opportunities in the UK, but UK businesses will also be able to bid for work in their territories.

See more about procurement under GPA.

Public sector bodies are likely to feel an impact in terms of staffing – there has already been a steep decline in EU applications for nursing positions, for example. These potential issues may have knock-on effects for companies that do business with the public sector.

 

Strategy

 

1. Which export markets are most likely to look favourably on the UK after Brexit?

The free trade agreement reached between the UK and the EU means the EU is likely to remain our most significant trading partner.

However, trade negotiations between the UK and various other countries have also been ongoing during the transition period. The UK has secured a number of ‘continuity’ deals covering more than 50 countries or territories, which took effect on 1 January 2021. These include an agreement with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) and Mozambique, as well as agreements with Morocco, Georgia, Switzerland and Central America.

In October 2020, the UK signed an economic partnership agreement with Japan which will mean 99% of UK exports to Japan will be free of tariffs.

The UK has also signed mutual recognition agreements with the US, Australia and New Zealand. These replicate current EU agreements, meaning that each country will recognise each other’s conformity assessments.

In December 2020, the UK signed trade agreements with Singapore, Mexico and Turkey.

See more about the UK’s existing trade agreements.

Looking for exporting opportunities? See the Lloyds Bank International Trade portal.

 

2. What can I do to protect my business from Brexit?

The first step you may want to take – if you haven’t already done so – is to carry out a Brexit risk assessment to see if your business has any vulnerabilities. This may also uncover opportunities for your business.

Areas to look at include impacts on importing and exporting, your supply chain, taxation, regulation, and your employees.

The British Chambers of Commerce has a Post-Transition Brexit checklist (PDF, 463KB) highlighting areas to consider.

You can then do whatever is possible to mitigate risks: for example, ensuring all your customs documentation is in order, making adjustments to your supply chain, and doing what you can to retain your EU employees.

You could also consider exploring alternative banking solutions if we are unable to provide you with banking products or services. You will already have been contacted if this is the case. 

The Government has launched an interactive tool to help businesses assess if they are ready for new rules coming in 2021.

See the Government’s Brexit checker tool.

 

3. The European Regional Development Fund has invested heavily in the UK, what is going to happen now?

Under the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK will continue to participate in programmes financed by the current EU budget until their closure.

According to the Government, this means the majority of programmes will continue to receive funding across their lifetime, in many cases, even after 31 December 2020.

 

Supply chain and delivery

 

1. How can I minimise delays when supplying goods?

Import controls on EU goods at the border were introduced on 1 January 2021. Traders in the UK and the EU now have to submit customs declarations and are liable for goods checks.

The EU has also said it will enforce checks on UK goods entering the single market.

It’s worth getting in contact with the organisation that moves your goods to find out what information they’ll need to make declarations for goods on your behalf, or if you’ll need to make them yourself.

See the steps you need to take to export goods to the EU

Get an EORI number.

See the Government’s new Border Operating Model.

 

2. Does my business still have to meet EU safety standards for goods?

To be sold on the EU market, many products have to meet safety standards set out in EU regulations. The CE mark is used on certain goods to show that they meet these standards.

CE marking will continue to be required for products being sold in the EU.

From January 2021, products sold in Great Britain will need to feature the new UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking.

The technical requirements products must meet – and the conformity assessment processes and standards that can be used to demonstrate conformity – will be largely the same as they were pre-Brexit.

See more about using the UKCA marking.

 

Finance and Investments

 

1. What will be the likely impact of Brexit on cross-border mergers and acquisitions for businesses?

Levels of merger and acquisition (M&A) activity are difficult to predict. On the one hand, possible divergence between the UK and the EU around anti-trust laws, potentially separate competition supervisory bodies to be cleared, and generally volatile markets, are all likely to decrease activity.

However, currency fluctuations (notably a weaker pound) and the desire by businesses to establish new geographical bases could see a rise in tactical M&A activity. Share price volatility can also trigger opportunities for some aggressive bids.

Due diligence is expected to take longer post-Brexit, and if an agreement cannot be reached between the UK and the EU on aligning competition regulation and anti-trust legislation, mergers and acquisitions could be subject to parallel processes.

Corporate restructuring within a group of companies that crosses borders is expected to become more complex too.

 

2. What support is available from Lloyds Bank to help with Brexit?

You can talk to your Relationship Manager or Business Relationship Team for support around financial planning.

We have also published a series of reports on the UK exit from the EU, looking at different scenarios and how to protect your business.

For trade support, you can make use of a range of resources on our International Trade Portal.

Important legal information

Lloyds Bank is a trading name of Lloyds Bank plc, Bank of Scotland plc, Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets plc and Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets Wertpapierhandelsbank GmbH.

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Eligible deposits with us are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). We are covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). Please note that due to FSCS and FOS eligibility criteria not all business customers will be covered.

While all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information provided is correct, no liability is accepted by Lloyds Bank for any loss or damage caused to any person relying on any statement or omission. This is for information only and should not be relied upon as offering advice for any set of circumstances. Specific advice should always be sought in each instance.