How will SMEs prepare for new documentary requirements after Brexit?


The question ‘How will small businesses be able to prepare for the new documentary requirements after Brexit without holdups and time/money lost?’ comes from a recent webinar we hosted on ‘What exporters need to know about Brexit in 2018’.

The answer below comes from the Institute of Export & International Trade who spoke alongside Enterprise Europe Network to give an overview of the challenges and opportunities that UK exporters will face in 2018 as the negotiations continue and hopefully progress.


A difficult question to answer accurately, at this point:   At present trade with EU countries is generally free from documentary and regulatory requirements, with a few exceptions. After Brexit, in the “worst case” (no agreement) scenario, sales to the EU would be treated by the other Member States in the same way as imports from any other “Third” (ie non EU) country. This would require the exporters to provide documentation or declarations to prove that goods conform to the various general and product-specific regulations and standards that are currently taken for granted.

Goods sold to the EU in the “no deal” scenario, would need to be accompanied by standard international trade documentation needed to allow goods to undergo customs clearance, such as commercial invoices and packing lists. Businesses need to consider the cost and administration required for this. Businesses should also review their documentation systems, to be sure that they are able to supply these documents in good time to be available at the point of despatch, to undergo export customs formalities, otherwise goods may suffer delays, which can be costly.

With regard to product-based regulations and documentation, requirements will vary for different sectors, but are usually published on the EU Market Access database, which contains a section, listing and describing the regulations based on tariff codes, at: . Users need to enter the tariff code for the product in question, and the country of origin.  At present, the dropdown menu does not include the UK (as we are not yet a Third Country), so this can be circumvented by selecting a country, such as China.

As mentioned in a separate question, any UK – EU agreement could be based on a Free Trade Agreement format, which might allow reduced or zero duties only for goods which can be proved to be of UK or EU origin. In this case, traders are likely to have to make a statement of origin, either in the form of a declaration on an invoice or in the form of a separate document, such as the current EUR1 form. It would be helpful for traders to read up on this in preparation, by reading HMRC Notices 827 and 828, which can be accessed at:

As with all matters, businesses should “plan for the worst, and hope for the best”.    

You can watch the webinar on ‘What exporters need to know about Brexit in 2018’ here:

Following the 2017 version of the webinar, we also released a 12-point checklist for companies starting to plan for the different potential outcomes of Brexit. You can view this checklist here.


If you have any further questions about Brexit – or exporting in general – you can use the Institute’s ‘Exporter Helpline’ service.

The helpline is either free for Institute members or can be accessed for a small fee by non-members. More information and access to the helpline can be found at:


About the Institute of Export & International Trade

The Institute of Export & International Trade‘s mission is to enhance the export performance of the United Kingdom by setting and maintaining professional standards in international trade management and export practice. This is principally achieved by the provision of education, training and practical business support services.

The challenging and often complex trading conditions in international markets mean that our role has never been more vital. The Institute continues to be committed to the belief that real competitive advantage lies in the competence of British businesses. Our future export growth must be underpinned by a sound foundation of knowledge.

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