Brexit means big changes to the way we trade
What you need to know about regulation, documentation and tariffs when importing or exporting
In practical terms, this means that:
From January 2021: Traders importing standard goods, covering everything from clothes to electronics, will need to prepare for basic customs requirements, such as keeping sufficient records of imported goods, and will have up to six months to complete customs declarations. While tariffs will need to be paid on all imports, payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made. There will be checks on controlled goods like alcohol and tobacco. Businesses will also need to consider how they account for VAT on imported goods. There will also be physical checks at the point of destination on all high risk live animals and a proportion of low-risk live animals.
From April 2021: All products of animal origin – for example meat, pet food, honey, milk or egg products – and all regulated plants and plant products will also require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation.
From July 2021: Traders moving all goods will have to make declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs. Full safety and security declarations will be required, while for sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) commodities there will be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples: checks for animals, plants and their products will now take place at GB Border Control Posts.
Exporters also face major changes. The UK will be treated as a ‘third country’ by the EU unless a free-trade deal is concluded beforehand. This means that tariffs will apply to most UK exports. As with imports, UK exports will be subject to full customs procedures. There will be additional licences and procedures for controlled goods.
HM Revenue & Customs has written to VAT-registered businesses that trade with the EU and/or the rest of the world, highlighting actions they need to take to continue trading with the EU from January 1, 2021.
There’s more detail in the Border Operating Model, a guide to how the border with the EU will work beyond the transition period.
In addition to the advice above, we’ve compiled other other useful resources to help businesses plan:
- A list of customs agents and fast parcel operators that can handle customs declarations for you.
- Grants towards staff training or IT improvements if you choose to make your own customs declarations.
- Check if you need an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) for export of certain controlled goods classed as dual-use items.
- Check when you can account for import VAT and guidance on completing your VAT return to account for import VAT.
- Claiming VAT refunds from EU countries.
- Paying VAT when you sell digital services to EU consumers.
- Using Union and Common Transit to move goods more quickly to EU and other Common Transit Convention countries.
- Moving goods under the Northern Ireland protocol and a Trader Support Service to handle associated processes around moving goods in and out of Northern Ireland.
- For products that require an export or import licence, there are changes to licence security.
Where the UK doesn’t have a trade agreement with another country – and that will include the 27 EU countries if there is no trade deal – trade will be subject to World Trade Organisation tariffs.
The Government’s trade tariff tool enables businesses to look up commodity codes to classify goods for import and export. You can fill in declarations and other paperwork, check if there’s duty or VAT to pay and find out about duty reliefs.
The Department for International Trade has produced individual guides for more then 100 countries on exporting once the transition period ends and on providing services and travelling for business. There’s also an online tool to help exporters check duties and customs procedures.
The Government hopes that Brexit will allow it to strike new trade deals with non-EU countries. The first of these has been concluded with Japan, which the Government says is a marked improvement on the current EU-Japan trade agreement. Prior to signing that deal, the Government’s priority has been to roll over existing EU trade deals so that they continue to apply to the UK beyond January 1.
Here is the latest guidance on:
- Import licences and certificates for importing certain animals, food products, drugs, chemicals and waste
- Export licences and certificates for exporting certain animals, food products, chemicals, waste, controlled goods (such as firearms and military items) and diamonds, plus a goods checker to establish if your items are controlled and a portal to apply for an export licence
- Bringing goods to the UK through roll-on roll-off ports
- Moving goods in and out of Northern Ireland under the Northern Ireland protocol
- Exporting excise goods (such as alcohol, tobacco and certain oils) and importing excise goods
- Importing and exporting food and drink
- Importing and exporting wine
- Exporting composite food products such as lasagne, pork pies, pepperoni pizza or cream liqueurs
- Exporting fish, importing fish and exporting wild caught marine fishery products
- Exporting live animals and animal products, groups of products of animal origin, how to identify livestock for export and details of a fund to train vets to certify products of animal origin and equines for export
- Importing animals, animal products and high-risk food and feed
- Using IPAFFS to notify authorities that you’re importing live animals and germinal products from the EU
- Exporting horses and ponies and importing horses and ponies
- Exporting GM food and animal feed products
- Importing and exporting plants and plant products
- Importing and exporting live aquatic animals
- Importing and exporting timber
- Importing and exporting waste
- Importing and exporting jewellery
- Exporting objects of cultural interest
- Exporting nuclear-related items and shipping radioactive sources to and from the EU
- Returning rejected exports from the EU (controlled goods, animals, animal products, fish, plants, plant products and timber)
- Bidding for government contracts overseas
- The eCommerce Directive (which will no longer apply) and geo-blocking
The Department for International Trade has published guidance for EU businesses that want to continue trading with the EU after January 1. Information is available in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish.
Cumbria Chamber of Commerce has recorded a podcast and webinar with Mark Rowbotham, an international trade consultant, exploring what Brexit means for importers and exporters. You can also watch HMRC videos aimed at businesses new to customs.
If you can’t find the information you’re looking for above, ask the Department for International Trade.