The UK has left the EU customs union, single market, and VAT area. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) sets out the terms of UK trade with the EU from 1 January 2021.
This article is a general overview of some of the issues arising from trade with the EU.
Businesses find dealing with the amended import and export procedures challenging. Below are the main sources of information which may help people dealing with questions about customs rules.
The Government’s Border Operating Model (June 2022) is a comprehensive guide on customs processes, both for imports from and exports to the EU. A Government explainer contains an overview of customs formalities for UK-EU trade. More information about the Model is available below.
European Commission Guidance Brexit: Now that the transition period has ended, new rules on taxes and customs answers the most common questions about EU customs rules. More detailed EU technical guidance is available.
Action if you wish to export to the EU: You need to familiarise yourselves with new processes. These include: preparing to make customs declarations, knowing how to classify your goods and following safety and security requirements.
Making customs declarations: You must submit customs declarations for all goods exported from and imported into the UK (excluding those from Ireland). In some cases, a business may submit a simplified declaration.
Classifying goods: You are responsible for correct classification of goods and recording of the origin of goods. Incorrect commodity codes or inaccurate recording of origin in customs declarations may mean that the wrong amount of tax or duty will be charged. You may classify your goods yourself but HMRC often advises getting help from customs intermediaries to ensure that goods are classified correctly. More information is on GOV.UK: Claiming preferential rates of duty between the UK and EU.
Follow Safety and Security Requirements
The EU requires safety and security declarations on imports from and exports to the UK. The UK Government does not currently require these declarations for imports from the EU. When exporting from Great Britain to the EU, you will generally have to make an exit summary declaration.
You can find information on customs and tax rules through various UK government channels:
The government has launched an Export support team hotline and online enquiry service for businesses exporting to the EU and further assistance is available as follows:
HMRC trade tariff tool can be used to check the applicable UK tariff duties and VAT rates.
Government Border Operating Model recommends, because customs declarations can be complex, that businesses use customs intermediary who can do this on their customers’ behalf. HMRC has lists of customs agents and fast parcel operators.
European Commission has a taxation and customs information website and you also need to consult in individual cases, the EU Member States to which you are exporting customs authorities.
Customs & International Trade Helpline number is 0300 322 9434. See also GOV.UK Brexit transition helplines.
Export support team hotline an online enquiry service for businesses exporting to the EU.
HMRC offers webinars and short films about importing and exporting.
Businesses moving goods between GB and Northern Ireland can use the free Trader Support Service, which provides information and can complete declarations on their behalf.
Free trade and support service is for businesses moving goods between GB and Northern Ireland. The service provides information and can complete declarations on your behalf.
A GOV.UK guide explains how businesses can export food, drink and agricultural products.
Compliance with Rules of Origin will allow your goods to be exported under the TCA on the basis of zero tariffs and quotas.
TCA secures zero tariffs and quotas on goods moving between the EU and UK, if those goods meet the rules of origin (RoO) which determine the “economic nationality” of goods based on where the products or materials (or inputs) used in their production come from. They prevent goods manufactured in third countries being routed through the UK (or the EU) to avoid paying third country tariffs.
The goods have to meet the ‘Rules of Origin’ requirements set out in the TCA. These rules relate to the amount of UK or EU content in a particular good and the amount of processing which goods undergo in the UK or EU before export. Together these determine whether goods qualify as UK or EU originating and therefore qualify for zero tariffs and quotas. Goods that have not been sufficiently produced or processed in the UK or EU cannot be re-exported tariff free. The VAT and excise rules that apply to goods coming into or leaving the UK from or to EU countries and non-EU countries are now the same.
A product qualifies as ‘originating’, if it is ‘wholly obtained’ in the UK and EU, or has been substantially transformed in one or both markets. Businesses that re-export goods from third countries with little or no further processing, may still face tariffs when trading with EU Member States.
RoO can be onerous. In some cases, the rules are specific to particular products. Some businesses cannot or do not wish to claim zero tariff because of the complexity or cost of the paperwork and due to the complexities, a substantial number of businesses do not claim zero tariffs when exporting to the EU.
You will need to meet EU regulatory requirements. Where conformity assessment procedures require approval from a third party conformity assessment body, you will need to obtain certification in both the UK and the EU if your products are to be sold in both. The UK Conformity Assessment (UKCA) mark will be used to demonstrate compliance of products in the UK, whilst the CE mark will continue to be used to demonstrate compliance of products in the EU.
Bio Security Requirements
If you move, buy or sell animals or plants, or their products from or to the EU, you now need to comply with rules for protecting human, plant and animal health to ensure that you can continue to trade freely, such as health certification, new biosecurity requirements and border checks. Certain animal products such as chilled meats (e.g. sausages and mincemeat) and some plant species can no longer be exported to the EU.
EU Customs controls: They ensure that duties are paid on goods moving across the border, and check compliance with safety, security, health and environmental requirements and the EU has introduced full customs controls.
UK Government Border controls
Border controls for goods imported from the EU are being phased in for customs declarations for all goods. This includes further health certification and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) checks on agri-food products, physical SPS-checks on EU imports at designated Border Control Posts, and a requirement for safety and security declarations. However, the UK Government is seeking digital solutions for the border and exploring new technologies to reduce friction and costs for businesses and consumers. The new target date for a reassessed import control regime is the end of 2023.
The TCA commits the UK and EU to hold regular reviews of their respective border controls with the aim of reducing the burden of such controls to facilitate trade without compromising biosecurity.
This article does not address the specific circumstances of any business. You cannot rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements. You need to consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.
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