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Preparing your business

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The Transition Period 

Time is running out - New rules take effect on 1 January 2021

The UK left the EU on the 31 January 2020. There is now a transition period, until the end of 2020, while the UK and EU negotiate additional arrangements. The UK could still leave without a trade deal at the end of a transition period.

The current rules on trade, travel, and business for the UK and EU will continue to apply during the transition period. However,  regardless of whether the UK reaches a trade agreement with the EU, from 1 January 2021 there will be guaranteed changes to:

  • the way your business can import and export goods
  • the process your business follows for hiring people from the EU
  • the way your business will be able to provide services in EU markets

Therefore, your business need to ACT NOW to prepare for 2021.

You can best prepare by:  

These are challenging times, but the transition period is ending on 31 December 2020 and the Government says that there will be no extension.

Unless you take action, there is a risk your business operations will be interrupted. You should also check with your suppliers and customers that they are taking action.

Make sure you're ready 

Businesses need to prepare now for EU trade on the same terms as the rest of the world. There will be new rules in many areas. For example, if you have a business, travel to Europe or sell your goods abroad.

Transition Checker Tool

Use the Government's transition checker tool to answer some questions and get a personalised list of what you need to do: 

Trade and Industry Forum

A new forum has also been set up to help businesses and traders find answers to questions regarding the transition period, please see:

Trading with the EU

Learn more about trading with the EU from 1 January 2021: 


Register and watch sector-specific webinars about how to prepare your business for new rules from 1 January 2021:

Digital Guides

Food and Drink Sector 

Defra has launched a new digital guide (20 November) covering the key actions food and drink businesses may need to take after the end of the transition period (from 1 January 2021): Food and Drink Sector Digital Guide.

Changes for busineses and citizens

Government Letters to Businesses

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

The Business Secretary has written (18 November) to a wide range of sectors about actions they need to take from 1 January 2021: 

HM Revenue and Customs

HMRC has sent letters to all VAT-registered businesses in Great Britain trading with the EU, or the EU and the rest of the world: 

The letter explains what businesses need to do to prepare for new processes for moving goods between Great Britain and the EU from 1 January 2021, including:

Get Border Ready


On 12 June 2020, the government announced the approach to border controls on GB-EU trade in 2021 and it formally notified the EU that it will not accept or seek an extension to the Transition Period.

In recognition of the unprecedented impact that coronavirus has had, border controls are being introduced in stages, to give businesses more time to prepare. The stages are:

  • From January 2021: Traders importing standard goods will need to prepare for basic customs requirements and will have up to six months to complete customs declarations. Tariff payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made. Traders moving controlled goods such as tobacco and toxic chemicals will be required to complete a customs declaration. Businesses will also need to consider how they account for VAT on imported goods. There will also be physical checks at the point of destination on all high-risk live animals and a proportion of low-risk live animals.
  • From April 2021: All products of animal origin (POAO) and all regulated plants and plant products will also require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation.
  • From July 2021: Traders moving all goods will have to make declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs. Full Safety and Security declarations will be required, while for Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) commodities there will be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples.

This approach does not apply to the flow of trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland, or between Northern Ireland and GB. 

Moving goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021

The Northern Ireland Protocol will take effect from 1 January 2021. New guidance provides support for businesses engaging in new processes under the Northern Ireland Protocol. 

Apply for grants if your business completes customs declarations 

Businesses can apply for three grants to help their business complete customs declarations. They can apply to get funding for:

  • training that helps a business to complete customs declarations and processes;
  • hiring new staff to help their business complete customs declarations;
  • IT improvements to help their business complete customs declarations more efficiently.

More information on the scheme and how to apply is available from HMRC.  

Find customs agents and fast parcel operators from 1 January 2021

HMRC maintains a list of customs agents and fast parcel operators who can help submit customs declarations from 1 January 2021.


The Government is opening information and advice sites across the UK to prepare hauliers for the end of the transition period. The sites will offer hauliers one-to-one training on the new procedures coming into place, with support available in 13 different languages.

A Haulier Handbook has also been published. The handbook, which will also be translated into 13 different languages, acts as a one-stop-shop to provide key information and advice on customs procedures, clearly setting out how hauliers can prepare themselves, their vehicles and their goods to continue travelling smoothly across the GB-EU border and help minimise disruption.

EU Settlement Scheme: Introduction for Employers

thumbnail_EU_Settlement_Scheme_introduction_for_employers.pdfLearn about how you as an employer can support EU citizens and non-EU citizen family members apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS): 

Further information on local support available to help apply to the scheme can be found on our EU Settlement Scheme page.

Points-Based Immigration System: Employers Information


The Home Office has updated (20 August) its guidance on the Points based Immigration System for employers. The guidance document outlines the process of becoming a licensed sponsor, explains the points system and suggests alternative routes for potential employees (e.g. Start-up and Innovator routes, Sports routes, short term Creative routes). There are also two new video explainers on Hiring people from outside the UK and Sponsoring a skilled worker.

From 1 January 2021, if a business wants to recruit anyone from outside the UK, they must be a Home Office licensed sponsor. It is recommended that business apply to be a UK visa sponsor now.

Employers can sign up to receive email updates on the new immigration system. 

Podcast: Business and the Future of Immigration in 2021

The Home Office has created a podcast episode in partnership with Intelligence Squared to help you prepare for the points-based immigration system. Listen now to Business and the Future of Immigration in 2021. Also available on Spotify and Apple

EU Funding


Although the UK has left the EU businesses will  continue to get any EU funding they’ve already been awarded. This includes funding they are  due to get after 31 December 2020. Businesses can still apply for EU funding under the current spending framework. The deadline will depend on which fund a business applied to. Some funds will still take applications under the current framework during 2021. It has not yet been decided what funding UK organisations will be able to apply for after the spending framework ends. Find out more: Getting EU Funding

Business Readiness Bulletin


The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy publishes a business readiness bulletin providing important information to help businesses prepare for the end of the transition period. You can subscribe to receive the email updates directly. After adding your email address click add subscriptions, tick the Transition bulletin box and then click next.


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