Government forced to publish data showing less than 3 in 10 UK exporters are prepared for ‘no deal’ Brexit

New data obtained by the Liberal Democrats from HM Treasury shows less than 3 in 10 exporters to the EU are ready for a ‘no deal’ Brexit. Figures suggest most will not be ready until the beginning of 2021.

In a no-deal Brexit, businesses that currently only trade with EU countries will need to apply for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number to trade goods into and out of the UK. HMRC uses this number to identify the business and collect duty on their goods.

Various business lobbying organisations have been warning for months of a serious lack of preparedness amongst firms for a ‘no deal’ Brexit and how few British exporters to the EU have an EORI number enabling them to continue to trade after a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Chuka Umunna MP, the Liberal Democrats’ Treasury & Business spokesperson asked HM Treasury (HMT) for the latest figures on how many businesses that will need an EORI number to export to the EU have one, in a parliamentary question on 18th July.

However he was told by the Financial Secretary Jesse Norman MP in an answer shortly before the summer Recess on 23rd July that “data on the number of traders that would need a UK EORI number is not readily available.”

This was in spite of the fact that Government has already privately shared the most recent data with various business groups. HMT also publicly released such data at the start the year but that was before leaving the EU ‘do or die’ on 31 October 2019 became government policy.

Mr Umunna threatened to raise a Point of Order, complaining to the House of Commons Speaker about the unwarranted withholding of such data from Parliament, and also said he would submit a Freedom of Information Request to force disclosure of the latest data.

As a result, HMT have now provided the latest EORI numbers data to Mr Umunna which suggests less than 3 in 10 exporters that will need an EORI number to trade in a ‘no deal’ scenario have one. If exporters to the EU register for an EORI number at the current rate (up to 10,000 per month), all businesses exporting to the EU won’t be registered until the beginning of 2021 at the earliest.

The data reveals:

* Since December 2018, approximately 66,000 traders who currently trade just with the EU have been issued with a UK EORI number.

* However, based on 2018 data, HMRC estimate that there are approximately 150,000 VAT registered traders who currently trade with the EU and may therefore need to obtain a UK EORI number.

* Figures released by HMRC in February 2019 revealed there were a further 95,000 non VAT registered businesses that trade with the EU and need to take action too.

* According to HMRC the volume of businesses that have registered for UK EORI numbers to date is equivalent to around two thirds of the total value of trade undertaken with the EU, by VAT registered companies.

Commenting on the forced release of the latest EORI data, Chuka Umunna, the Liberal Democrat Treasury & Business spokesperson, said:

These figures reveal 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.

Pursuing a ‘no deal’ Brexit is 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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  • nigel hunter 5th Aug '19 - 3:07pm

    Those businesses that were given the information.I wonder if they were Brexiteer orientated and or had Conservative leanings? It would look like the Govnt was hiding the information till after Brexit . I trust the info will be sent and printed in the right wing papers!?

  • John Marriott 5th Aug '19 - 5:04pm

    When Labour planned to spend large sums of money on righting the wrongs of austerity, Theresa May accused them of having a ‘magic money tree’. Well, on that basis, her successor would appear to have found a veritable forest!

    Has anyone noticed this sudden emphasis on the NHS? I detect the hand of Cummings here. After all, it was his idea during the referendum campaign to zero in on health. Remember the slogan on that bus? Well, if it worked then, why not do it again?

    In any case, having promised to buy up all that lamb from Welsh hill farmers or to compensate car manufacturers, not forgetting our fishermen, there won’t be much left over for the kind of largesse he is promising us now. And then there’s all those graduate police officers in the pipeline and all those lovely WTO deals. Hallelujah!

    As for firms being ready for a no Deal Brexit, it’s a bit like that famous public service advert from the 1970s, narrated in reassuring terms by actor Patrick (Barrett Homes) Allen, telling us, when the siren sounded, to built a nuclear fallout shelter out of a door and a few blankets, if we hadn’t got a cupboard under the stairs in which to hide for a few weeks.

    I must end here as I need to go into my back garden to see whether those fairies have arrived, making sure that I dodge those flying pigs. Then I need to sit down in a darkened room as I am getting to sound a bit like ‘frankie’. As he might say; “ ‘Tis a funny time we live in.”

  • @ John Marriott It’s not just the Welsh lamb, John, it’s the Scottish lamb, the Cumbrian lamb, the Northumbrian lamb and the Yorkshire and Derbyshire lamb.

    Without them the national parks of Scotland, England and Wales would become a wilderness and the tourist industry would go down the pan too….. something the townies don’t understand..

  • Martin Land 5th Aug '19 - 6:06pm

    I suspect the problem is deep rooted. Businessmen are rational human beings who make intelligent decisions based on facts. They therefore find the idea of a no deal brexit too absurd to take seriously.

  • John,
    Welcome to my world. The point I’ve been labouring for many a long month is no matter how “nice” you think our Brexiteers are no amount of facts will change them. They are driven by a need to be right, a need to return to simpler times, a need to prove to themselves they are still relevant, are still the “man”. So they will twist, turn and dodge to avoid facts, will embrace Tinkerbell, unicorns or any other fantasy. Remember in their world “tis always someone else’s fault” and there will be a lot of things in need of scape goats to assign blame to, because it could never be their stupidity. Of cause history will judge actually it was their stupidity, but small crumbs of comfort for those of us labouring under their arrent moranity.

  • Indeed Martin “Surely they can’t be that stupid” is a thought that has given much comfort to many. Unfortunately it is and always has been a myth, truly they are that stupid, I know that is a frightening thought, it has been scaring me for months but truth is often scary; hence my inablity to have any time for their witterrings, stupidity deserves no respect only derision.

  • John Peters 5th Aug '19 - 6:38pm

    There is a mandate for withdrawing from the EU without signing a treaty. No deal being preferred to a bad deal was in the Tory manifesto.

    “Liberal Democrats not only want a final say for the people on any deal”

    No they do not – they and the Greens say they will ignore a People’s Vote.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Aug '19 - 7:20pm

    John Peters:

    “[Lib Dems] and the Greens say they will ignore a People’s Vote.”

    No they haven’t. They’ve said they won’t change their view if Leave wins again. And that’s exactly what democracy is about. Regardless of who wins, the losing side does not suddenly start supporting the winners. That’s why we have an Opposition.
    And in any case, any sensible People’s Vote legislation would be framed so that the vote was binding, so it would not be for anyone to “implement” or “ignore” the result, because the implementation would be the automatic result of the vote.

  • John,
    Thanks for popping up and proving my point to Martin. Before your arrival Martin may have still been thinking “Sure frankie must be joking, truly they can’t be that stupid”, doubt he will be thinking that now.
    They truly are that delusional , be afraid be very afraid.

  • Why should anyone be surprised that business is ill prepared. We live in a world where Boris Johnson is suitable PM material and Patel, Truss, et al, are deemed qualified for high office: a world where the most powerful position is held by a narcissistic bigot who spends his time sending tweets that, day by day, drift further and further from reality.

    Am I the only one who feels that they are living in some sort of ‘alternative existence’?

  • John Marriott 6th Aug '19 - 9:30am


    In today’s Guardian there’s an article by Polly Toynbee listing all those parties, that will come together to save us from a No Deal Brexit – and not a mention of the Lib Dems.

    In today’s Times the front page warns about Johnson simply ignoring a No Confidence Motion from Parliament, thus possibly dragging the Queen into politics.

    Any comments as this thread has been a bit quiet?

  • @Martin Land “I suspect the problem is deep rooted. Businessmen are rational human beings who make intelligent decisions based on facts. They therefore find the idea of a no deal brexit too absurd to take seriously.”

    It’s a combination of factors:

    – human nature – we all know we’re mortal, but most of the time we choose not to think about it. People find it difficult to force themselves to deal with unpleasant facts and tend to put it off
    – cost – many businesses cannot afford to waste time and money on something that they believed in all likelihood wouldn’t happen
    – ignorance – we’re all better informed about trade since Brexit, but most of us (and that includes most people who run businesses) are not experts on it and probably don’t understand the full ramifications

    I know someone who runs a consultancy on logistics, and he’s been inundated since Johnson’s coronation by people looking to put emergency plans in place to deal with tariffs and warehousing.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Aug '19 - 10:27am

    “Downing Street is war gaming all the options”
    John Marriott 5th Aug ’19 – 5:04pm We also have to accept large quantities of New Zealand lamb. Both countries are already trying to increase exports to markets that do not eat beef or pork. China produces pork and duck and is under US sanctions.
    Should the UK try there?
    We should also think about by-elections. In the past we have needed to fight as many as three at the same time. Obviously Sheffield Hallam is a priority, but it is not currently held by a Tory.
    Dover is held by a Tory, but we do not yet know whether there will be a by-election or a general election or neither.
    Dover has special issues for which we should be ready.

  • Mr Hague urged the new Prime Minister to “make the positive case for a migration system that is closed to abuse but open to hard work and ability”.
    He added Brexit will mean that the UK does not have to restrict the number of skilled workers from outside the EU to make up for the inability to control European migration.

    The UK can then ain to attract the most talented people in the world to help Britain’s push to be at the forefront of breakthroughs in fields including renewable energy and digital communication.

    Mr Hague has suggested that the Government could not count students in the immigration numbers in a bid to attract as many talented students as possible.

    He also said Boris Johnson could give special visas to those in science and technical subjects who want to work in the UK after their studies.

  • Johnson ignores vote of no confidence, tries again in the 14 days cooling off period, probably fails as he would have to abandon No Deal. Others organise a majority for a government of national unity, which would I guess opt for another referendum. Having a majority the Queen can then ask them to form a government. Johnson still refuses to go, what then tanks on Whitehall? It is getting serious.

  • Theakes,
    It has been serious for a long, long time. The frightening thing is the level of delusion in the country is at all time highs. We have the delusionist Brexi’s and Lexi’s ( only experience will change them and it is as likely to kill them as change them), but on the other side we have the Delusion of “if we all play nice and get along, everything will be fine, just compromise, see the other side”; well I long ago saw the otherside and I realised “nice” won’t cut it and you can’t compromise with “stupid”, experience again will cure them of their delusion.

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