Critical considerations for UK importers and exporters

30 November 2020

With just over a month to go until the end of the EU transition period, is your business ready for the changes at the end of the year?

Here, we set out some of the top often overlooked considerations UK businesses need to take within the next 40 days. To get more in-depth support join the EU Exit webinar series running now until March 2021. Learn more at

Intellectual property

On 1 January 2021 there will be changes to UK intellectual property law, including trademarks and designs, to ensure the smooth departure from EU IP systems. Businesses should conduct or look into conducting an IP audit. Depending on business vulnerability/exposure, we’d recommend accessing advice from the Intellectual Property Office or consulting an IP Adviser to make sure your IP strategy is EU Exit proof.

Data flows and GDPR

The Government has confirmed that the data transfers from the UK to the EEA will not be restricted. However, if you receive, process or store EEA customer data then you’ll need to incorporate what’s called a standard contractual clause into your commercial contract.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has good sample clauses and can help you to determine which one is most appropriate for your business.

We’d also recommend looking at your data flows with EU member states and familiarising yourself with measures that need to be implemented.

Overseas business travel

There are several changes you need to be aware of with business travel. These vary from the minimum amount of time left on a passport to increased insurance requirements.

We recommend consulting the specific entry requirements for each country as they vary depending on destination, frequency and length of stay

EU employees

EU employees working in England: To continuing living and working within the UK following the 30 June 2021, employees need to register for the EU settlement scheme.

UK employees working in the EU: UK employees based in the EU need to check the terms of residency and employment within the jurisdiction of where they are residing. They may need to make an application to stay within that country.

Future employment of EU nationals

The UK will be introducing its new points-based immigration system.

To hire EU nationals in the future, you’ll need to register as a licenced sponsor. Registering as a sponsor takes approximately eight weeks and there are fees that are payable.


Regulation varies greatly from different service sector industries and it tends to be most stringent in finance, aviation and healthcare. So, if you’re operating in a sector which is highly regulated, we recommend speaking to your regulator to ensure your taking the right steps to mitigate the impact the EU Exit might have.

Foreign exchange and currency

The last few years have seen incredible currency volatility.

Businesses should look to take measures to manage their exposure to those fluctuations and closely monitor any risks that may emerge.

It’s important that all business consider the currency volatility impact on the price of goods for sale in the UK. We recommend businesses look at their current pricing structure and cash flows, then test resilience should wholesale prices change.

Commercial contracts

Contractual and legal challenges could emerge with the cross-border service level agreement, impacting licensing, insurance policies and data transfers.

You might not be covered, protected or your contracts recognised after the 31 December. We recommend reviewing your existing contracts and trading agreements, prioritising your most strategic ones.

Moving forward, employ caution when you’re entering new contracts with EU based parities.

Value added tax (VAT)

Be aware of your VAT obligations. Are your suppliers based in the UK or in the EU? This will dictate where your VAT is applicable and where you need to be registered.

Time is running out and now is the time to prepare your business for the new rules following the end of the transition period. The considerations mentioned above form part of the preparations UK importers and exporters need to undertake to keep business running smoothly as we enter 2021.  For in-depth information on the changes following the 31 December, visit GOV.UK/Transition.

For local support, visit the SEMLEP’s Growth Hub website. From one to one business resilience meetings to a series of fully funded trade-focused webinars, the team are available to help business navigate what comes next:

Get 2021 ready today.