If you are currently shipping from the U.K into Europe or from Europe into the U.K, no doubt you are trying to make the best preparations you can with so many unanswered questions planting seeds of doubt as Brexit approaches.
We have been speaking with some the worlds biggest shippers, from Royal Mail and DPD through to FedEx and DHL. No one has a clear answer on exactly what will happen, but the general feeling is to plan for a no deal Brexit. In the case of a no deal Brexit, the U.K will no longer be able to import goods into the E.U as freely as it does now, and E.U based companies will not be able to export to the U.K as freely either.
Shiptheory is taking the stance that in the event of a no deal Brexit, shipping between the U.K and Europe will work in the same, or similar way that shipping between the U.K and Asia, or the U.S works.
And so, we've put together a checklist that we hope will mitigate the risk of disruption after the 29th of March 2019, when Brexit is due to happen. We hope this list is useful to anyone with an e-commerce business, regardless of what platforms or systems you use.
A short disclaimer: This checklist is based on our best guess as to what will be needed after Brexit when shipping. We could be wrong. We encourage you to do your own research put backup plans in place where possible.
Register an EORI Number
If you are shipping between the U.K and Europe, you may want to register for an EORI number in advanced. EORI numbers are required to ship from the EU to non-EU countries and from outside of the EU into EU countries.
If you use Shiptheory, add your EORI number to your Shiptheory account to ensure we have the data needed when shipping internationally.
Update Product Commodity Data
The most important factor when shipping internationally is product commodity data. Having the correct commodity data attached to shipments is the difference between a quick border crossing and a delayed or even rejected import.
You may already have up to date commodity data, but now is the time to check as carriers such as FedEX, DHL and UPS provide electronic import documents that reduce or entirely eliminate the paperwork you need to provide with international shipments. Additionally, Royal Mail announced in 2017 that they would soon be making product commodity data a requirement and the DPD Group has also recently developed a new electronic document service to reduce paperwork (more on this below).
For carriers or countries that do not support electronic data, you may need to provide paperwork in the form of CN22/CN23 documents and Commercial Invoices.
Check with the carriers you are using to ensure you are covered.
If you are using Shiptheory, you can check what commodity data we have for your products. For more information and instructions on updating this product, see our guide on updating product data.
Check for Restricted Products
The European Union has rules as to what products can and can not be freely imported and what additional checks, permits and documentation is required. If you ship potentially restricted items such as thermometers or pesticides, for example, then you may want to review European Union Policy on Restricted Items ahead of March 29th 2019.
Be Ready To Review Shipping Prices and Policy
Allocate some time to reviewing and updating your shipping offering on your website. As shipping conditions are subject to change after Brexit, delivery times and costs may be affected. You will need to reflect this within the messaging on your website. You may also need to run the numbers again on what you pay and charge for shipping, ensuring your margins are still where you expect.
This is tricky because you can only make educated guesses as to what you will need to do here. Depending on how your website works, you may need to involve different departments or even thirdparty developers and agencies. It may be worth having a conversation with all involved parties in advanced so that everyone is prepared.
Talk to your carriers
Open a dialogue with your carriers and ask for any suggestions they have on how to prepare. Some carriers have published official guidelines and information regarding Brexit. For example, DPD's Guide to Brexit. You may need to be a little forgiving with carriers, In most cases, they don't know any more than you do and are as equally frustrated with the lack of clarity.
What is Shiptheory doing to prepare for Brexit?
The Shiptheory team is doing everything we can to prepare. We are in discussions with our shipping and channel partners. We have also deployed several updates that make it easier for you to see what product data we store on your behalf so that you can make sure we are sending the correct data to border authorities to prevent delayed deliveries. In the event that electronic transfer of trade documents is not possible, we have created additional support documentation on how to complete paper equivalents.
We have also allocated additional development resource to ensure we keep up to date with our partners' technical updates. For example, Shiptheory is compatible with DPDs new electronic trade document service (providing your product catalogue has adequate commodity data, see above).
We will continue to talk with our partners and provide every possible solution we find that will make life easier for our customers. If you have questions or concerns, please reach out to support or leave a comment below - We are happy to help.