The UK transition: key terms

Blogs 26 Nov 2020

The UK transition brings new ways of doing business as well as a new set of terminology to master. We take a look at the terms you need to know.

The UK has left the EU. On 31 December 2020 the UK will leave the EU single market and customs union and from 1 January 2021 new rules will apply in areas including trade with the EU, the UK immigration system, and VAT.

Most of these new rules will apply regardless of whether the UK and EU successfully negotiate a free trade agreement before the end of the transition period.

These changes will mean that many businesses will have to familiarise themselves with new terms and processes relating to customs, VAT, immigration law, and more.

This page defines some of these key terms relating to the end of the transition period.

Customs declaration

Details the goods that are being imported or exported, to ensure the right import duty and VAT are applied. It often includes commodity codes and any necessary licences. You’ll need to make a customs declaration when you import goods from the EU from 1 January 2021.

You can make a declaration yourself, or appoint someone to deal with it on your behalf.

EORI number

You need an EORI number that starts with GB to import goods from 1 January 2021.

You’ll need an EORI number from an EU country if your business will be making declarations or getting a customs decision in the EU. Get this from the customs authority in the EU country where you submit your first declaration or request your first decision.


Traders will need an export licence issued by the UK to export dual-use items from Great Britain to the EU or the Channel Islands, or your goods may be held at the border.

Register now for an Open General Export Licence through SPIRE.

UK Global Tariff

This will replace the current common external tariff. It will apply to all goods you import from 1 January 2021, with a few exceptions. You can check the UK Global Tariff for your products here.

Commodity code

A ten-digit number used to classify goods that are imported or exported from outside of the EU. You can use this trade tariff tool to find your code.

Zero rate

From 1 January 2021, you may be able to charge customers VAT at 0% on most goods you export to the EU. You can find more information about this here.

Points-based immigration

The new points-based immigration system will introduce job, salary and language requirements that will change the way you hire from the EU. You’ll need a sponsor licence to hire most eligible employees from outside the UK. This does not apply to Irish citizens. You can find out more here.

EU Settlement Scheme

If you’re an employer, you may have employees who need to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK. Full details about who should apply can be found here.


Stay updated

Find the latest guidance and resources for small businesses on our UK transition hub.

Visit the hub