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.

Should you have other issues, comments or feedback please click "request a call back" to submit a form. If you request assistance or response, we will be in touch at the earliest opportunity.

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.

As a result of Brexit, there will be significant changes to the current processes of moving goods between GB and EU. All stakeholders involved in the cross-border movement of goods will need to be aware of the changes, make all necessary decisions and complete all administrative actions at the earliest opportunity to avoid unnecessary disruption. As freight forwarders and customs brokers handle the majority of transport and customs formalities, they will be pivotal in ensuring the seamless flow of goods between the EU and GB from 1 January 2021.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

At the end of the transition period, the Northern Ireland (NI) Protocol will come into effect. This will change the current processes for moving goods between GB and NI. The TSS is a free to use digital service offering support to traders to streamline new administrative obligations when moving goods between GB and NI. The TSS will offer education and advice to traders in preparation for the upcoming changes. A digital platform will be provided to satisfy the required administrative procedures for goods moving from GB to NI. The TSS will also provide a contact centre support function to assist traders resolve issues in compliance with the new processes.

The TSS is not intended to provide a personalised service to individual traders and therefore does not replace the functions of existing customs brokers or intermediaries. 

TSS supports stakeholders across the whole of the supply chain. All stakeholders therefore need to sign up and register.

Yes, HMRC may undertake checks to confirm the accuracy of the declaration being made within the GVMS. These checks may be undertaken after the goods have been released from the border and may include taking a sample of the goods being imported. Ensuring accurate declarations are made is therefore of high importance.

The purpose of the Kent Access Permit (KAP) is to alleviate potential congestion through the Kent corridor to the main RoRo ports. It aims to assist in ensuring that all drivers already have all the required export documentation for their respective cargo for crossing the border with the EU, prior to entering the County of Kent. All international truck drivers entering the County of Kent en route to the EU will require a KAP from 1 January 2021. The KAP is an electronic certificate for drivers undertaking international road movements from the UK to the EU.

Drivers transporting trailers that will move across the border unaccompanied will not require a KAP, as these journeys will be considered domestic only rather than international.

All truck drivers whether GB or EU based will require a KAP to carry out international truck movements from the UK to the EU when accessing the EU through the County of Kent. Truck drivers undertaking domestic journeys, from, to or through Kent, will not require a KAP.

The Kent Access Permit will be issued by the “Check an HGV is ready to cross the border” (C-HGV) service, formerly known as the Smart Freight System.

This service will provide advice on documentation that HGVs over 7.5 tonnes will need when exporting freight from GB to the EU after 31 December 2020 from all RoRo ports. It will be an online portal  through which all details of the given shipment can be self-declared to prove that an HGV has the correct EU import and commodities documents for the goods it is carrying before it crosses the GB/EU border. The person completing the registration will receive a red, amber, green response from the service, indicating:

Green – All documents declared are present, proceed to the port.
Amber – Documentation declared is present, but driver must proceed to an HMRC Office of Departure or a third party authorised consignor to complete customs processes and obtain a Movement Reference Number (MRN).
Red – Some of all documents are not present, do not proceed to the port.

Hauliers/drivers travelling via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel must use this service in order to obtain a Kent Access Permit.

Each KAP is linked to the individual movement of goods. A single KAP cannot be used for multiple journeys. A KAP will be valid for a 24 hour period, designed to cover a single trip.

If you do not have a valid Kent Access Permit, then you are exposed to a statutory fine of up to GBP300 that will be administered by either the DVSA or Police enforcement officers. The fines will be issued to the driver rather than the haulier or freight operator. Fines will be issued where a driver has either failed to obtain a KAP or continues to travel through Kent towards the port under a Red result from the “Check an HGV is Ready to Cross the Border ” service. In addition, from an operational perspective, you are likely to experience disruption in undertaking further checks and having to travel to a checking/validation area. This will delay movements, cause congestion and you risk missing planned sailings which will impact working/driving hours. Operators should not allow drivers to leave the depot, destined for the border through Kent, without all required permits and documentation.

Each KAP is linked to the individual movement of goods. A single KAP cannot be used for multiple journeys. A KAP will be valid for a 24 hour period, designed to cover a single trip.

It would be prudent to undertake a review of any contract that applies to the movement of goods cross border between the EU and UK to ensure that they remain relevant after the end of the transition period. References for example to EU Law or the UK being a Member State of the EU should be of particular interest and might result in the need to revise the contract terms. While there might be risks connected to the legality of the terms, where for example the UK is no longer considered a Member State of the EU, operationally stakeholders could consider the geographical reach of the contract and which party would be considered liable for any additional costs that might be incurred.

CMR notes will continue to be the required consignment note for goods shipped cross border between the EU and UK. However a little more thought will be required (than is common practice today) when completing these documents, a greater level of care for example will be required in connection to the description of the cargo being shipped. The expectation will be that the description of the goods on the CMR note will match that contained within other required cargo related documents. It should be highlighted that there are likely to be more frequent checks by authorities and completeness and accuracy will be important.

From 1 January 2021, drivers crossing the border will require their passport. Those drivers who regularly (or might) undertake such journeys should check the validity of their passport, ensuring that there is at least six months validity from the date of the intended journey. It may be prudent to renew your passport as early as possible in the event that it is due to expire in the first six months of 2021. You might also need to consider the validity of your passport moving forwards with your employer to ensure minimal operational impact in the event you need to apply for a renewal.

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.