Most people have never heard of EORI numbers, and many will never need to. Now is the time to learn: your business may need to register for one when the UK leaves the customs union on 31 December 2020.

Current position

Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) numbers are unique customs ID for businesses. They are used in customs processing when you trade with the EU from outside the customs union, to make customs declarations or request customs decisions.

The UK is no longer an EU member state, but we are still part of the customs union until the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020. This means that you do not need an EORI number to trade with the EU in 2020.

What’s next?

From 1 January 2021 you may need a UK and/or an EU EORI number if your business trades goods with the EU. We will not know the specific customs requirements until the UK has negotiated a free trade deal with the EU – or if no agreement is reached and we face a hard EU border. Either way, big changes to the customs requirements are pending, and UK businesses will need to prepare.

Will you need a UK EORI number?

UK EORI numbers begin with ‘GB’ followed by 12 digits. You will need one if your company imports goods to, or exports goods from, the UK. The UK EORI number is needed to submit a customs declaration to UK customs. If you do not already have one, you can easily apply for one here.

Will you need an EU EORI number?

EU EORI numbers start with the letters of the EU company that issued it (e.g. FR for France). You will probably need an EU EORI number to submit a customs declaration to EU customs, or get a customs decision in the EU. The government will provide further guidance once EU customs negotiations have progressed.

Your UK businesses may not need an EU EORI number if it does not submit declarations to EU customs itself. The EU business you are trading with can submit this EU customs declaration. For instance, if your UK business sells goods to a Spanish business, your business is the exporter. You will be responsible for the export declaration in the UK, so you will need a UK EORI number. The Spanish business is the importer, so will be responsible for the import declaration in Spain, and will probably need an EU EORI number.

However, a UK business may still need an EU EORI number as well as a UK number if it deals with EU customs directly, for instance where you are exporting goods from the UK branch to the French branch of your business.

You could also choose to use a third party customs agent to make the declarations on your behalf, in which case you should not need an EU EORI number. You can start contacting agents now to prepare for 2021, with the help of this government guidance.

If you already have an EORI number

You will need to ensure that your company does not have an existing UK EORI number, before submitting an application for a new one. You can check here to see if you have a UK EORI number. You will need to enter the letters ‘GB’, then your VAT number, then enter ‘000’ e.g. GB123456789000.

HMRC has already automatically issued around 80,000 UK businesses with UK EORI numbers in anticipation of Brexit, so you may already have one. If a business already has a UK EORI number, it will not need a new one and can continue to use the UK EORI after Brexit.

If your business has an existing EU EORI number which does not begin ‘GB’, it is not yet clear how this will be treated in 2021. It is possible that the number will remain valid for a short time after the transition period, but we await guidance from the government on this point.

How Blaser Mills Law can help:

If you would like further, in-depth guidance on whether your business requires an EORI number, as a consequence of Brexit, please contact one of our corporate commercial law specialists on 01494 478678 or at