Thousands of agriculture businesses without EU identification numbers could be unable to trade with the EU if Britain crashes out of Europe with a no-deal on April 12.
With just days until the new Brexit deadline of April 12, and still without a deal, Defra secretary Michael Gove estimated that around 85,000 businesses were yet to apply for an Economic Operator Registration and Identity (EORI) number, required for exports into our outside the EU, at a House of Lords select committee today.
Committee chair Lord Robin Teverson suggested during the hearing that British agriculture businesses were “perhaps not as prepared as we would want it to be” in the event of a no-deal on April 12.
Michael Gove said: “A challenge remains with business. While governments can do a great deal there are things we cannot do... The number of EORI registrations has increased to 60,000, but out of 145,000 it's still not enough, and one of the things we are seeking to do is to make sure we communicate as effectively as possible with business so that it knows what it needs to do.
He added: “Many of the larger business have put in place appropriate contingency plans and are prepared as can be, but smaller business are less prepared at the moment.”
In December the government advised businesses to register for an EORI number, in case of a no-deal, with applications taking up to 10 minutes, and received in three days.
Gove said that EU countries had significantly stepped up their port capacity in the event of a no-deal with new border inspection posts being built to deal with any increase in customs checks.
“The EU and its member states have made extensive provisions for our leaving without a deal, across the EU there has been 18 applications for the establishing of new border inspections including Calais where one is in the process of being constructed.
“It is also the case that the French authorities have upgraded the customs clearance procedure and a great deal of work has gone to ensure that the Dover-Calais route can be as frictionless as possible.
“That’s not to say there may not be challenges and risks, but everyone on the French and UK side is considerably more confident than they were. The port of Calais has taken apppropriate steps to ensure trade is as smooth as possible.”
Gove also revealed that the EU had offered the UK continued access to online food safety system TRACES even if Britain leaves Europe without a deal, described by Teverson as a “major get out of jail free”.