Surge in UK AEO Applications – a sign that Brexit preparations are going up a notch?

Thu 10 Jan 2019
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

aeo training

There has been a surge in AEO applications in the UK – a clear indication that the country’s exporting businesses are preparing for life after Brexit. A 26% rise in registrations up to January 2019 compared to February 2017 represents the highest percentage increase in registrations across Europe (see below table).


Registrations Feb 2017

Registrations Jan 2019





26% increase




5% increase




3% increase




16% increase


Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status demonstrates a company’s role within international supply chains as being secure, indicating that its customs controls and procedures are efficient and compliant.

Read more about AEO and its benefits

The UK has long lagged behind counterpart European nations in terms of its number of AEO applications. Up to January 2019, 679 UK businesses have registered, compared to 6330 in Germany, 1556 in the Netherlands, and 1664 in France.

However, the 26% increase over the last two years signals a gear-change, according to Director General of the Institute of Export & International Trade, Lesley Batchelor.

“UK businesses are now realising that they will need to prove their competency in customs procedures when Brexit comes around – whatever form it may take. This surge in applications is encouraging, but there’s much more to be done before we catch up with our European counterparts, who will soon be our competitors.

“Attaining AEO status will be a useful exercise for exporters, whatever our future arrangement with the EU will be. The application process allows businesses to fully examine and ensure that its customs regime is up-to-scratch. Doing this will also put businesses in a strong position for other customs arrangements, including the Trusted Trader scheme."

Holly Tonge, Director of Special Projects at the Institute, also said:

“Many of the companies I’ve worked with in recent times have applied for AEO to safeguard their attractiveness in the supply chain post-Brexit. I would suggest that more companies should look at AEO as a way of ensuring they are operating as efficiently as possible, as post-Brexit the need for customs competency will be greater than ever.”

How to apply for AEO

Registration is open to all businesses in the EU that are involved in the international trade of goods with non-EU countries, including logistics operators, carriers, freight forwarders, customs agents, importers, exporters and manufacturers.

Businesses apply to HMRC for AEO and will be subject to a thorough assessment of many aspects of their operations, including company finances, site security, shipping procedures, compliance with customs requirements and fulfilment of the relevant legal and safety regulations.

The Institute is on hand to help businesses with the application process

The HMRC audit visit can be an arduous process, which is why the Institute of Export & International Trade have launched a new one-day training course and 3-tiered consultancy service to support businesses with the application process and to prepare for the visit.

The one-day training course helps companies to understand the requirements for attaining AEO and benefits this reaps. It guides them through the application process and highlights the pitfalls that companies typically experience, explaining how to avoid delays and mistakes.

More information about our AEO training course

The consultancy package offers 3 tiers of support: a ‘Readiness Review’, a ‘Preparation Project’ and support for the application and submission itself.

One of our experts will go into the business and help take them through every stage of acquiring and maintaining AEO status.

More information about our AEO consultancy

Book your AEO Readiness Review now - £1500+VAT for IOE&IT members, £1750+VAT for non-members. Call 01733 404400 or email