A recent article in the BBC (see below for link) has picked up on the governments reference to ‘trusted trader’ schemes in it’s strategy to help traders prepare for Brexit.

Those of us already involved in international trade should be familiar with ‘Authorised Economic Operater’ status – AEO.  The EU-wide scheme allows businesses to certify that they are meeting certain standards when it comes to customs operations.  The government is hoping this and similar schemes will be key to facilitating the hallowed ‘frictionless’ trade between the UK and the EU.  However as the author states, British firms have up to now been slow on the uptake with only 600 or so being registered.  There are also various questions that need answering.

As with most Brexit preparations we can put in place, there are costs and resources that need to be invested in order to do this.  The most pressing concern will be for the 145,000+ businesses who currently trade only within the EU.  Many may not have even heard of AEO, and currently you need to be a non-EU trader just to apply for certification.  There is also the question of how AEO might need to be adapted for the UK once it has left the EU.

We can hope that the government will be thinking about how to facilitate this and other schemes to assist traders in preparing.  But hope alone could be in vain, given the UK is still occupied with struggles over it’s negotiating position with the EU on the fundamentals of future trade.  Much of the detail will have to come later – possibly too late to avoid disruption to supply chains on day one.

A good further analysis is also provided by Tim Gordon via LinkedIn, who points out that collectively we do have the expertise to figure this out, but leadership is required at the top to coordinate (and fund) our way through.  Again, see below for a link.

The consensus seems to be that whilst AEO will play an increasingly important role, it is no magic Brexit-bullet.

Brexit: The traders who aren’t (yet) trusted (BBC)

Customs & International Trade: AEO finally gets some mainstream media attention? (Tim Gordon via LinkedIn)

HMRC Guidance on AEO