Businesses that trade with the EU need to take steps now to prepare for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, a government minister has warned.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride told the BBC’s Today programme “there is a call to action now”.
Later on Friday, HMRC is due to publish an update to its advice on how firms should prepare for a no-deal scenario.
However, Mr Stride called the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal an “unlikely event”.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Stride said: “The time is now, there is a call to action now.
“Those who are importing or exporting into and out of the EU 27, in the unlikely event that there is a no-deal at the end of March, will need to take certain steps. They need to do that now.”
In October, HMRC released a partnership pack designed to help businesses prepare for changes at the UK border if there is no-deal exit.
Mr Stride said businesses needed to “get a customs agent on board” or “look at software they can use to make sure (of) their import and export declarations”.
He added that firms should register for an Economic Operators Registration and Identification Number (EORI number) – a system of unique identification numbers used by customs authorities throughout the European Union.
Businesses should also be prepared to pay custom duties in the event of a no-deal Brexit, he warned.
The latest HMRC update marks a shift in tone, with businesses being urged to take action now.
The new version of the partnership pack also includes details about government funding for new IT systems and staff training, which is available to customs brokers, customs intermediaries and traders.
On Wednesday, British business groups criticised politicians for focusing on in-fighting rather than preparing for Brexit, warning that there was not enough time to prepare for a no-deal scenario.
The groups said companies had been “watching in horror” at the continuing rows within Westminster.