Brexit: What The Self-Employed Need To Know And Do, image of British and EU flags | Crunch

The UK formally left the European Union on the 31st December 2020. But what does this mean for you as a freelancer, contractor, or small business owner? We’ve collected a host of information to help your business.

On 24th December 2020, an agreement was reached between the UK and the EU, setting out the UK’s future relationship with the world’s biggest trading bloc. Now that the transition period is over, new rules for doing business with Europe have arrived.

Here’s a simplified explanation of what you need to think about and consider for your business.

Selling goods

Firstly, if you sell goods to the EU, you’re going to have to follow new rules for importing and exporting, including changes to customs processes and licensing.

From the 1st January 2021, you’ll need to declare any goods you’re exporting to the EU as if you were sending them anywhere else in the world.

You can make the declarations yourself, but most businesses tend to use a customs intermediary (such as a courier, freight forwarder, or customs agent). has information about how to make customs declarations yourself or how to get someone to deal with customs for you.

If you don’t classify your goods correctly, or if you don’t accurately record the origin of the goods in your customs declaration, you may be charged the wrong amount of tax or duty, or risk delays or even have your deliveries returned, so it’s worthwhile getting assistance with this if you’re unsure. The official guidance recommends that you get a contract in place as soon as you can with a customs intermediary, especially if you’re exporting or importing controlled goods.

If you move goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland, it’s important you act now to comply with the new rules by checking the latest Northern Ireland Protocol guidance. If you aren’t ready, you may not be able to move goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Working abroad or employing overseas nationals

If you travel to the EU for work purposes, you’ll need to check if you need a visa or work permit and apply if necessary.

Freedom of movement between the EU and the UK has ended, and the UK has introduced a new points-based immigration system. If you want to hire anyone from outside the UK, including from the EU, you must be a Home Office licenced sponsor. You can find out more about the new immigration system in our jargon-free article.

Anyone from the EU coming to work in the UK will need a job offer from a ‘licenced sponsor’ in advance and must meet certain skills and salary criteria.

Once you’ve checked whether your business is eligible to become a licenced sponsor, you’ll then need to choose the type of licence you want to apply for – this will depend on what type of worker you want to sponsor. You’ll also need to decide who’s going to manage the sponsorship within your business.

You can apply to be a visa sponsor online – fees vary depending on what tier your business falls into.

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) may pay you a visit to check your business is suitable.

If your application is successful, you’ll be given a licence rating, and you’ll be able to issue certificates of sponsorship if you have suitable jobs.

Your licence will then be valid for four years. It may be revoked if you fail to meet your responsibilities as a sponsor, however.

Sponsoring someone doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be allowed to come to or stay in the UK, and the new system doesn’t apply when hiring Irish citizens, or EU citizens eligible to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme.

If you’re an EU, European Economic Area (EEA), or Swiss citizen who was living and working in the UK before 31st December 2020, you can apply with your family to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living and working in the UK after 30th June 2021.

Receiving data

If your business receives personal data (any information that can be used to identify a living person, including names, delivery details, IP addresses, or HR data) from contacts in the EU or EEA, you might need to take extra steps to ensure that the data can continue to flow legally at the end of the transition period. This may involve getting Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) in place with your EU counterparts. offers more information on SCCs.

If your business or organisation receives personal data from the EU/EEA, you must check the current guidance on lawfully continuing to receive personal data such as names, addresses or payroll details from organisations in the EU or EEA.

Providing services in the EU

To continue to practise or service clients in the EU, you will need to ensure your UK qualifications are recognised by the relevant EU regulatory or professional body. There are similar requirements for EU professionals needing to get their qualifications recognised in the UK.

We have a Knowledge article covering the impact on businesses that were using the VAT Mini One Stop Shop (VAT MOSS).

There’s further information on about changes affecting business providing services to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Domain names

From the start of 2021, if you’re using a ‘.eu’ domain name, you’ll no longer be able to renew it if your business is not based in the EU. Your registration company will be able to advise on the best course of action. There’s also some helpful advice and guidance here.

More information

As announcements or further details come in, we’ll ensure that this article has all the relevant information for the self-employed community.

The government have set up a tool for Businesses to figure out whether they are affected by any of these rules, which can be found at

Useful hotlines

If you think you’d benefit from speaking to someone directly about the new rules, or any problems or questions you may have, here are a selection of handy phone numbers:

  • Customs declarations, simplified customs procedures, duties and tariffs: 0300 322 9434
  • Trader import and export licences and certificates of free sale: 03300 416500
  • For exporting food, drink and agricultural products: 0300 020 0301
  • Import and export of timber: 0300 067 5155
  • Plants and plant products: 0300 1000 313
  • Importing and exporting of waste: 03708 506 506
  • Vehicles enquiries: 0300 790 6802
  • Driving licences and International driving permits: 0300 790 6802
  • Importing and exporting vehicle and trailer registration: 0300 790 6802
  • Operator licence and permits: 0300 790 6801
  • Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC): 0300 790 6801
  • Business support helpline (England): 0800 998 1098
  • Find Business Support Scotland helpline: 0300 303 0660
  • Business Wales helpline: 0300 060 3000
  • Invest Northern Ireland helpline: 0800 181 4422
  • Regulation of manufactured goods: 0121 345 1201
  • CE / UKCA marking: 0121 345 1201
  • Regulation of medicines and medical devices: 020 3080 6000
  • Supply of medicinal products: 0800 915 9964
  • European Timber Regulations: 0300 067 4000
  • Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade Regulation: 0300 67 4000
  • EU Emissions Trading System, Allowances and Carbon Emissions, UK Energy Markets, Single Electricity Market, Civil Nuclear and Electricity Suppliers and Systems: 020 7215 5000
  • Fish Exports, Catch Certificates, Processing Statements and Prior Notification or Pre Landing Declarations: 0330 159 1989
  • Exporting of Equines and Import/Export of Animals, Endangered Species and Animal Products: 0300 020 0301
  • Intellectual Property Office 0300 300 2000
  • Information Commissioner’s Office 0303 123 1113
  • Consumer Rights: 0808 223 1133 (Welsh Language option: 0808 223 1144
  • Funding by the EU, HMG Guarantee for EU Funds, Horizon 2020, Research Fund for Coat and Steel, COSME, Nuclear Fission, Fusion 4 Energy, EUROFusion and Connecting Europe Facility for Energy: 020 7215 5000
  • Department for Education helpline: 0370 000 2288
  • Home Office helpline: 0300 790 6268
  • Department for International Trade Brexit Enquiry Service: 0300 123 7379 1

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Tom West
Community and Social Manager
Updated on
April 9, 2021

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