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 agreed a trade deal with the EU.

In practical terms, this means that trade in goods will be free of tariffs and quotas.

However, there are still major changes.  Since January 1, taders importing standard goods, covering everything from clothes to electronics, have had to deal with basic customs requirements, such as keeping sufficient records of imported goods, completing customs declarations within six months. There are checks on controlled goods such as alcohol and tobacco. Businesses must also consider how they account for VAT on imported goods. There are physical checks at the point of destination on all high-risk live animals and a proportion of low-risk live animals.

Further changes due to be implemented from April and July have been put back. The new timetable is as follows

From 1 October 2021:

  • Pre-notification requirements will be required for products of animal origin, high-risk food not of animal origin (HRFNAO) and certain animal by products.
  • Health certificates will be required for products of animal origin and certain animal by-products.

From 1 January 2022:

  • Safety and security declarations for imported goods will be required.
  • Physical SPS checks for products of animal origin, certain animal by-products, HRFNAO and high risk plants, will take place at Border Control Posts.
  • Prenotification requirements and documentary checks, including phytosanitary certificates, will be introduced for low risk plants and plant products.
  • Customs declarations on all goods will be required at the point of import, and businesses will no longer be able to use the deferred declaration scheme.

From 1 March 2022:

  • Checks at Border Control Posts will take place on live animals, low risk plants and plant products.
  • Traders moving controlled goods into Great Britain will continue to be ineligible for the deferred customs declaration approach. They will therefore be required to complete a full customs declaration, when the goods enter Great Britain.

The SME Brexit Support Fund helps businesses adapt to these changes. SMEs can apply for up to £2,000 in total through two types of grants:

  • To provide training on completing customs declarations, or training on how to manage customs processes and use customs software and systems, or training on specific import and export related aspects including VAT, excise and rules of origin.
  • To get professional advice so your business can meet its customs, excise, import VAT or safety and security declaration requirements.

Business can apply online. Applications will close on June 30, 2021, or earlier if all funding is allocated before this date.

The Field Force Support Programme is offered by the Cabinet Office to support businesses that trade more than £250,000 of goods with the EU each year.
The support available ranges from invitations to specialist events, one-to-one query resolution, more access to business case studies and sector-specific guidance from policy experts. To be part of this programme you will need to answer some questions on your business and the goods you trade in.

Exporters are also subject to full customs procedures. An Export Health Certificate is required to export food or drink that contains products of animal origin such as meat, dairy or eggs. There are additional licences and procedures for controlled goods. There is guidance too on returning exports that have been rejected by the EU.

Here is the Government’s advice for businesses that trade internationally including step-by-step guidance on importing from and exporting to the EU, declaring goods brought into Great Britain and what you need to do to move goods using common and Union Transit.

In the light of the trade deal, this is the guidance on how to claim preferential rates of duty on goods covered in the deal and how to declare goods imported into the UK on your import declaration, delaying declarations on EU goods brought into the UK, the rules of origin for goods moving between the UK and EU and information on taxes and tariffs for EU businesses trading with the UK. There’s more information on rules of origin in this short explainer for SMEs and FAQs.

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 and it has issued guidance on the conditions for zero-rating VAT on the goods you export and what you should do when you export goods in specific circumstances.

There’s more detail in the Border Operating Model, a guide to how the border with the EU now works.

In addition to the advice above, we’ve compiled other other useful resources to help businesses:

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. Where there is no trade deal, trade is subject to World Trade Organisation rules.

The Government has announced that certain imported goods will benefit from a temporary tariff suspension or reduction of duty from January 1.

Trade with some countries is subject to sanctions. You can get information on UK sanctions in place and how to apply for the appropriate licences.

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  guidance  for individual countries on providing services and travelling for business.  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. Here is information on trade agreements the UK is negotiating and which trade agreements the UK has already signed. The UK has also applied to join the Pacific Free Trade Area (CPTPP).

Here is information on technical issues affecting trade in specific products and services:

The Department for International Trade has published guidance for EU businesses that want to continue trading with the UK.

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.