Trade and Tariffs

Brexit means big changes to the way we trade

What you need to know about regulation, documentation and tariffs when importing or exporting

The Government has set out its plan for our future trading relationship  with the EU and its intention  to introduce import controls on EU goods.

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.

Here is the Government’s advice for businesses that trade internationally including step-by-step guidance on importing from and exporting to the EU from January 1, 2021.

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:

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.

Tariffs do not apply to goods imported from a country the UK has a trade deal with, a country part of the Generalised Scheme of Preferences or where an exception applies.

The British Chambers of Commerce has customs guidance including e-guides to customs declarations, rules of origin and tariffs. It also offers customs declarations training.

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:

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.