Get ready for Brexit: a guide for businesses based outside the UK

This guide explains how businesses in the EU and around the world, that invest in and sell goods and services to the UK, can prepare for Brexit

Last updated 31 October 2019

Investing and operating in the UK

Trade agreements with the UK

Exporting goods to the UK

Selling services to and in the UK

Investing and operating in the UK

EU businesses with UK operations

The investment environment in the UK is very liberalised. EU businesses wanting to invest in the UK after Brexit will find the UK has very few restrictions on third country ownership and Foreign Direct Investment.

EU businesses that operate branches in the UK are already subject to the overseas companies regime.

In a no-deal Brexit, EU businesses will become classed as originating from a ‘third country’. They will become subject to the same information and filing requirements as the UK branches of a business from non-EU countries.

In practice, these additional requirements are minimal.

There will be no change in who can be an owner, senior manager or director of a UK company, as the UK does not place nationality restrictions on the owners or managers of UK companies.

EU businesses providing services remotely to the UK can also expect minimal additional barriers to the UK market.

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European Investment Bank Group funding

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is a source of borrowing for infrastructure projects.

Find out how a no-deal Brexit affects UK project contracts with the EIB on GOV.UK.

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Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is the EU’s main programme to fund science and innovation.

UK researchers, universities and businesses will be able to continue to bid for Horizon 2020 funding after the UK leaves the EU, including in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In a no-deal Brexit, the UK Government has guaranteed funding for all successful eligible UK bids to Horizon 2020 submitted before the end of 2020.

This includes all UK participations in projects that are ongoing when the UK leaves the EU.

Find out more about Horizon 2020 after a no-deal Brexit on gov.uk.

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Bidding on UK government contracts

The Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) allows overseas businesses to bid for government contracts in the UK.

The UK currently takes part in the GPA as an EU member.

After Brexit, the UK will become part of the GPA in its own right, with the same level of coverage as we have as an EU member. This means that overseas businesses based in markets covered by the GPA will still be able to bid for UK government contracts.

Check if your business is based in a market that is covered by the GPA on the World Trade Organization website.

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Living and working in the UK

For guidance on living and working in the UK for EU and non-EU citizens and what action employers need to take, see the immigration arrangements in a no-deal Brexit on gov.uk.

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Trade agreements with the UK

Trade agreements

How businesses export to the UK may change after a no-deal Brexit.

The EU has trade agreements with several countries. Once the UK has left the EU, these trade agreements will no longer apply to trade between the UK and the trading partner country.

The UK has replicated some of these agreements.

Where the UK has replicated these agreements, there may be changes to trading terms.

See which trade agreements the UK has signed and whether there are any changes to your trading conditions.

If the UK has not replicated an EU trade agreement, there may be substantial changes to how you trade with the UK. You may have to trade with the UK on World Trade Organization terms.

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Exporting goods to the UK

Customs processes

Non EU-based countries

In a no-deal Brexit, there are no significant changes to customs processes for businesses based outside the EU. However, once the UK has left the EU, your imports to the UK will not have free movement within the EU customs union.

EU-based businesses

In a no-deal Brexit, to trade with the UK, EU-based businesses will have to follow customs procedures, in the same way as they would when trading with non-EU countries.

The first thing businesses should do is to speak to their UK trading partner to find out who will be responsible for customs processes, duties and taxes.

Find more information in the Brexit UK customs guide for EU businesses on the Europa website.

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Import tariffs into the UK including Generalised Scheme of Preferences

In a no-deal Brexit, import duty will become due on certain imports into the UK from the EU, whilst the rates from the rest of the world may change. Temporary rates will be in place for up to 12 months, after which the UK government will introduce a permanent tariff regime.

Depending on where the goods come from, the tariff rate will either be a preferential rate or a non-preferential rate.

Non-preferential rate

A non-preferential rate will apply if the country you are exporting from trades under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules but has no specific trade agreement with the UK

Find the UK’s non-preferential tariff rates in a no-deal Brexit on gov.uk.

Preferential rate

Trade preferences reduce or remove rates of duty (tariffs) on imports from developing countries into the UK.

A preferential tariff rate will apply if the country you are importing from has a trade agreement with the UK or is part of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences.

Generalised Scheme of Preferences

Eligible developing countries can get trade preferences through the UK Generalised Scheme of Preferences.

Find out more about the Generalised Scheme of Preferences on gov.uk.

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Exporting plant and plant products from the EU to the UK

Phytosanitary certificates and CITES for exporters

If the goods you export across the EU-UK border are currently managed under

  • the EU plant passport regime

or

  • the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

you will need to provide a phytosanitary certificate (PC) and CITES permit to export them to the UK immediately after Brexit.

Plants and plant products that are not currently managed under an EU plant passport scheme, for example fruit, vegetables and cut flowers, can continue to enter the UK without plant health controls.

What your UK importer needs to do

Your UK importer may need to be registered on UK systems or with the UK authorities in order to import to the UK.

They should check the systems they need to use, for example PEACH (Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates) and register before they import.

Check with your UK importer to make sure they’re prepared.

Your UK importer must use the PEACH system to notify UK authorities in advance about goods entering England or Wales from the EU.

See guidance for goods entering directly into Scotland or Northern Ireland from the EU.

Your UK importer will need to provide scanned copies of the phytosanitary certificate and import documents. In addition they must post the original copy of the phytosanitary certificate within 3 days of the consignment arriving in the UK.

Authorised point of entry and inland checks

Plants and plant products, including timber, will need to enter the UK via a UK authorised point of entry. You will need to arrange inland checks at authorised trade premises, known as Place of First Arrival (PoFA), if all of the following apply:

  • your goods have come from a third country via the EU
  • the EU have not performed plant health checks
  • you wish to enter the UK via a roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) port

If you do not have access to a PoFA you will need to enter the UK via a non-RoRo port or an alternative inspection post where plant health checks will be performed at the border.

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Labelling food when exporting EU goods to the UK

The UK will have a 21-month transition period for labelling changes after Brexit.

The labels for all pre-packaged food or caseins sold in the UK must include the UK address of the food business operator (FBO).

If the FBO is not in the UK, the label should include the UK address of the importer bringing the food into the UK.

Find out more about food labelling changes in a no-deal Brexit on gov.uk.

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Wood packaging material for exports from the EU to the UK

After Brexit, all wood packaging material (WPM) moving between the UK and the EU must be heat treated and marked to meet ISPM15 international standards.

WPM includes:

  • pallets
  • crates
  • boxes
  • cable drums
  • spools
  • dunnage

Checks on WPM will continue to be carried out in the UK on a risk-targeted basis only.

For further advice about moving WPM after Brexit, contact your supplier or the Timber Packaging and Pallet Confederation (TIMCON).

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Manufactured goods regulation: labelling, approvals and testing for CE marked goods

In a no-deal Brexit, most goods regulated under the EU’s ‘New Approach’ can still be sold in the UK with a CE marking for a limited time as long as they comply with EU rules.

You will be able to continue using the CE marking if you self-certify conformity. If your goods are subject to mandatory assessment by a third-party conformity assessment body this must be carried out by an EU recognised notified body.

You can also, for a limited time, continue to have your goods assessed against EU requirements before selling them in the UK with a CE marking if your country has concluded a mutual recognition agreement with the EU.

Check if your country has a mutual recognition agreement with the EU on gov.uk.

New UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) marking

Products that are intended for the UK market and have been assessed by a UK approved body against UK rules will need the new UK Conformity Assessed (UKCA) marking. If your goods need the marking, you must use the marking in order for your goods to be valid for sale in the UK.

You do not need to use the UKCA marking if you have used the CE marking and a relevant EU-recognised assessment body during the time-limited period mentioned above.

Check if your goods need the UKCA mark on gov.uk.

Medical devices and the UKCA mark

The UKCA mark will not apply to medical devices.

See guidance on exporting medical devices to the UK on gov.uk.

You can continue using your existing authorised representative based in the UK, EU, EEA or Switzerland for a time limited period. If you appoint a new authorised representative after exit day, they will need to be based in the UK to act on your behalf in the UK.

Cosmetic goods

If you are selling cosmetic goods in the UK, you will need to have a responsible person based in the UK after Brexit.

If authorised representatives are not mandatory for third-country manufacturers, you do not need to do anything.

Check if you need to appoint an authorised or responsible person in the UK on gov.uk.

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Data movement

Transferring personal data

Businesses and organisations in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA) should act now to keep sharing personal data legally with UK partners in a no-deal Brexit.

Find guidance on data transfers in a no-deal Brexit on the European Data Protection Board website.

Personal data transfers can include:

  • customer addresses in delivery details
  • personnel files in outsourced HR, accounts and back office functions
  • transfers of customer details within a company

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Intellectual property and design protection

For protection as an unregistered design, a design must be disclosed within a particular territory.

In a no-deal Brexit the UK will no longer be part of the EU territory for unregistered community designs. This means disclosure in the UK would not result in EU protection and disclosure in the EU would not result in protection in the UK.

If you need your design to be protected in both the EU and UK, consider disclosing it before 31 October.

For designs disclosed after 31 October in a no-deal Brexit, carefully consider how, when and where you first disclose your designs in order to establish unregistered protection in the UK and the EU. You can also apply to register your design either before disclosing it, or within 12 months of disclosure.

Find out about changes to registered design, design rights and international design and trade mark law on gov.uk

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Intellectual property and exhaustion of rights

The UK is currently part of a regional European Economic Area (EEA) exhaustion scheme.

This means intellectual property rights are considered exhausted once they have been put on the market anywhere in the EEA by or with the rights holder’s permission.

In a no-deal Brexit the UK will continue to recognise the EEA regional exhaustion regime.

This means there will be no change to the rules affecting imports of goods into the UK. Businesses that undertake this activity may continue unaffected.

Ongoing UK recognition of the EEA regional exhaustion area will ensure that parallel imports of goods, such as pharmaceuticals, can continue from the EEA.

Find out more about exhaustion of intellectual property rights on gov.uk

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Selling services to and in the UK

Selling services in a regulated profession: recognition of EU, EEA and Swiss qualifications

To work in a regulated profession, you must have your qualification recognised with the relevant UK competent authority before you can practise.

Check the list of regulated professions and associated competent authorities in the UK on the UK National Recognition Information Centre website.

If your qualification has already been recognised in the UK before Brexit, that recognition will continue and you do not need to take any action.

If you have applied for a recognition and are awaiting a decision on exit day, you application will, as far as possible, be concluded under pre-exit rules.

Professionals with EEA or Swiss qualifications who wish to start an application for recognition after exit will be subject to the new system of recognition.

For more guidance on the new system of recognition see getting your EEA qualification recognised in the UK after Brexit on gov.uk or get in touch with the appropriate UK competent authority.

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