Your questions answered.

These pages seek to provide comment and advice on numerous functions and activities that form the complexity of the supply chain by way of 'frequently asked questions'. We hope that these will assist the various stakeholders in navigating the changed landscape they could face.

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Because of a 2016 referendum, The United Kingdom of Great Britain (“GB” ) and Northern Ireland (“NI”), (“the UK”) voted to leave the European Union (EU), in doing so; it also agreed to leave the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union. The Treaty signed by the EU and the UK on 24 January 2020 although titled Agreement on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, has unofficially been abbreviated to The Brexit Withdrawal Agreement or Brexit. This Treaty was enacted in the UK by the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 and resulted in the UK officially leaving the EU on 31 January 2020. However, although “Brexit” has already happened, its effects have yet to be felt because the Transition Period agreed by the UK and EU maintains the pre-Brexit status quo until 23.00 (GMT) on 31 December 2020.

The UK is now in a transition period, during which many negotiations with the EU are taking place. These include trade discussions. The transition period is set to end on 31 December 2020 at 2300 (GMT). Regardless of any agreements made during this period, there will be changes to the way goods are moved between GB and EU once the transition period ends.

After the transition period, GB will impose controls on goods moving from the EU to GB, in a model similar to how it handles Rest of World imported goods. These controls will be introduced in three phases over a six-month period from 1 January 2021.

For movements from GB to EU, full declarations will be required from 1 January 2021 - the approach will not be phased.

In so far as NI is concerned, as things currently stand, the NI Protocol will take effect after the transition period. Please see below for further information about the NI Protocol.

An EORI number is a unique identification code used to track and register customs information in the EU. If you are a VAT registered business, you may have already been assigned an EORI number automatically. The format of the EORI number is constructed of a country code, showing where the business of individual is registered followed by a unique code or number. For example:

  • For VAT registered businesses – GB + VAT registration number + 000
  • For non-VAT registered businesses – GB + a unique number issued by HMRC

You can use the tool here to check/validate your EORI number.

GB>EU: from 1 January 2021, you will require an UK EORI number to move goods between GB and EU. If you haven’t already obtained a UK EORI number, you will need to apply for one as a priority. The process is straight forward and should take approximately one week to obtain the number. Details of how to apply can be found here.

EU/GB: from 1 January 2021, you will require an EU EORI number to move goods between GB and EU. If you haven’t already obtained an EU EORI number, you will need to apply for one as a priority. The process is straight forward and should take approximately one week to obtain the number. Details of how to apply can be found here.

Rest of World: this will depend on your business model and with which countries you trade. In some cases, businesses based outside of the EU but trading within Europe will require an EORI number.

If you do not apply and obtain either a UK or an EU EORI number, when shipping goods between GB and EU you may experience delays that lead to increased costs. For example, if HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are unable to clear your goods you may have to pay storage fees.

There are resources that can be used to verify which goods require SPS controls. Provided that you have the correct commodity code, you can verify any requirements here.

The UK Global Tariff will take effect after transition period ends on 31 December 2020. The UK Global Tariff will apply to imports from any WTO country or bloc with which the UK does not have an agreement or preferential trade arrangements, including lesser developed countries.

The Border Operating Model, released in July 2020, states that the tariffs applicable to UK importers will be published…”when they are finalised and before implementation”. This suggests that the published list here, is not necessarily the final list. Notwithstanding the above, stakeholders should plan for the tariffs that are currently published until such time that they are formally updated.

If no trade deal is agreed before the end of the transition period, then the UK Global Tariff will apply to goods imported from the EU to GB from 1 January 2021.

No, the new UK Global Tariff is not currently in operation and will not come into force until the end of the transition period. Until the end of the transition period, the current EU Common External Tariff continues to apply.

Each individual consignment within a groupage cargo transport unit (CTU) must have cleared the relevant requirements for those goods to be imported. This includes the core requirements along with any additional requirements. The clearance of the entire groupage load is dependent on this. In practice, one carton which does not clear, has the potential to hold up an entire trailer load of groupage imports. It is critical that extra care is exercised to ensure that all requirements are met for each and every consignment to avoid delays and/or compliance action.

The Northern Ireland Protocol is a practical solution to avoid a hard border with Ireland whilst ensuring the UK, including Northern Ireland, leaves the EU as a whole, enabling the entire UK to benefit from future Free Trade Agreements. There will be special provisions that apply only in Northern Ireland while the Protocol is in force. In essence these mean that there will be no change to the movement of goods covered by the Protocol between NI and the EU Member States including Ireland. There will be no new paperwork, no tariffs, quotas or checks on rules of origin; nor any barriers to movement within the EU Single Market for goods in free circulation in Northern Ireland. Please note that this may change depending on the outcome of the negotiations between the UK and EU.

The Northern Ireland Protocol will take effect at the end of the transition period from 1 January 2021.

For the import of certain goods, GB will implement a phased approach which will allow those authorised to do so, to defer full customs declarations for up to six months. The phased import period will run from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021. The six-month period of deferment, will commence from the time of import for up to six months. Therefore if you import goods on 1 March 2021, you can defer full customs declarations up to 1 September 2021.

If you move goods to or from Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021 you will need an EORI number that starts with XI to move goods between Northern Ireland and non-EU countries, to make a declaration in Northern Ireland and/or to get a customs decision in Northern Ireland.

To get an EORI number that starts with XI, you must already have an EORI number that starts with GB. If you do not have one, you must apply for an EORI number that starts with GB as soon as possible. If you already have an EORI number that starts with GB and HMRC thinks you need one that starts with XI, you should automatically be sent one in mid-December 2020.

To get advice on moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland it would be prudent to sign up for the Trader Support Service.

Certain goods will only be permitted to enter Great Britain through specific ports/BCPs where physical checks and the taking of samples will take place. Stakeholders should take steps to understand whether the goods they are shipping/handling are affected and engage with their customers to explore how these goods will be handled. Consideration may be required in terms of shipping routes, additional costs and potential delays through the existing supply chain.

Border checks will be required to ensure that any tariffs or duties due are paid and that imported goods meet the relevant standards in areas such as food and product safety and disease control, to prevent smuggling and illicit activity, and to comply with international obligations.

For imported goods from the EU, ports in Great Britain will elect to operate under either a pre-lodgement or temporary storage model or a mixture of both. 

Pre-lodgement explained

Under the pre-lodgement model, to achieve customs control whilst maintaining flow, industry must ensure that all goods have the appropriate declarations before they board for the cross channel transit. Stakeholders must also communicate to the person in control of the goods (driver or carrier) by the time they arrive whether goods are cleared to proceed on their journey or need a check.

If port operators decide to use the pre-lodgement model they will need to:

  • Ensure goods are not allowed to arrive at that location without pre-lodged declarations. For example, by being listed as a RoRo location or through commercial arrangements with users that goods without declarations will not be allowed into the location. 
  • Take reasonable steps to ensure those goods identified as needing checks are controlled upon arrival.

Temporary storage explained

Goods imported from the EU can be stored temporarily under customs control before they are released to free circulation, exported or placed under the outward processing procedure, or placed under a special procedure (inward processing, customs warehousing, authorised use, or temporary admission). This will mean traders can defer making a customs declaration and paying duties and taxes for up to 90 days from the date the goods are presented. An authorisation is required to operate a temporary storage facility.

Stakeholders will need to familiarise themselves as to which ports are implementing pre-lodgement, temporary storage or mixed models and be aware that hauliers may need to proceed to inland sites for customs controls to take place.

The Goods Vehicle Movement System (GVMS) is an IT platform which supports the pre-lodgement border control model. The GVMS will generate a unique Goods Movement Reference (GMR) for each vehicle that will need to be presented by the driver prior to boarding and will allow:

  • Declaration references to be linked together so that the person actually moving the goods (haulier) only has to present one single reference (Goods Movement Reference (GMR)) at the frontier to prove that their goods have pre-lodged declarations.
  • The linking of the movement of the goods to declarations, enabling the automatic arrival in HMRC systems as soon as goods board so that declarations can be processed en route.
  • Notification of the risking outcome of declarations (i.e. cleared or uncleared) in HMRC systems to be sent to the person in control of the goods by the time they physically arrive so they know where they need to proceed to.

Several EU ports are proposing to use similar systems.

There are no restrictions associated with EU domiciled hauliers obtaining a GB EORI number. If an EU haulier already holds an EU EORI this does not prevent them from being able to apply for a GB EORI to use from 1 January 2021. Once registered, hauliers can access GVMS in 2 ways:

  • Online service via www.gov.uk
  • A direct link from software they use into GVMS (API).

Accessing GVMS enables a haulier to create a Goods Movement Record (GMR) so customs and transit declaration references, and any safety and security declaration references can be linked together into one GMR for each goods vehicle crossing the border. The haulier will present the GMR to a carrier upon entry to a port before entering or exiting the UK. The carrier sends the GMRs to GVMS to enable customs and transit declarations to be processed. The haulier will then receive a notification from GVMS informing them that they are cleared or not cleared from customs control before entering or exiting the UK.

“Prohibited goods” refers to goods that cannot be imported. In some cases, there may be limited circumstances, known as “derogations” where prohibited goods can be imported. Any derogations from a prohibition will be listed in the UK tariff. Further information can be found on the UK government website.

Existing EU sanctions will continue to apply until 2300 GMT on 31 December 2020. From 2300 GMT on 31 December 2020 a range of new autonomous sanctions will apply, through regulations under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 (the Sanctions Act). The new sanctions prohibit various activities including import, export and associated services. The UK is transferring existing EU sanctions regimes into this new legal framework. Traders should therefore familiarise themselves with the new Sanctions Act regulations and ensure that any imports and exports activities are in line with Sanctions Act regulations. Licences may be required. Further information can be found at the UK government website.

Please note

The information contained on this web page has been compiled from various sources, and are not a substitute for professional/legal advice. We do not accept responsibility for loss or damage which may arise from reliance on the information contained herein.