Not enough businesses in Northern Ireland are signing up for paperwork designed to allow trade with the Republic of Ireland and Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit, industry chiefs have warned.
Anyone who wants to export into the Republic or the EU must register for the European Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) scheme.
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, and Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, met officials following the release of a Department of the Economy report that 40,000 jobs could be at risk if there is a no-deal departure.
Mr Roberts said: “It is hugely disappointing that the sign-up rate for the EORI scheme in Northern Ireland is nowhere near where it should be even in comparison with the rest of the UK.
“It is essential that businesses start to engage with both DAERA and HMRC on these schemes, particularly micro and small businesses.
“The lack of proper preparation could mean the difference between make and break for some businesses.”
The local economy is more reliant on consumer spending than the rest of the UK.
Mr Roberts added: “Our politicians must be aware of the effect that a no deal will have for our consumers.
“With households here having half of the discretionary income of Great Britain households, any cost rises will be felt hardest in Northern Ireland.
“We need to protect our business and consumers.”
It is estimated that the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) will have to undertake 100 times the checks and will have a 10,000% increase in export health certificates.
A single mixed load lorry could need 100 export health certificates, business leaders believe.
Mr Connolly said: “Supply chains are only as strong as the weakest link so businesses need to start thinking about what goes into their products and where their products come from and go to.
“Businesses need to take action now to ensure that they have made the preparations and mitigations needed to keep their goods flowing.
“Any product that goes across the border, should that be a sandwich or a pizza, will need an export health certificate. Businesses will also need to inform DAERA exactly what is being moved.
“If a product is made of several ingredients, exporters will have to prove the provenance of each of the ingredients which adds cost and complexity to the supply chain.”
The deadline for the UK leaving the EU was delayed in March until October 31.