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.

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 took effect after the Brexit transition period ended, the published list having been issued on 31 December 2020. The UK Global Tariff applies to imports where goods do not fulfil the rules of origin requirements.

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. The final agreement on the Protocol on 17 December 2020 means 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.

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.

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.

Cabotage1 and cross trade2 rights and obligations under existing EU rules have changed now that the Brexit transition period has expired. GB and EU operators will continue to be able to provide services to, from and through each other’s territories. Hauliers can also continue to make some additional movements within the other’s territory.

Under the EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA), as a GB haulier, you will be able to undertake unlimited journeys to and from the EU and unlimited transit journeys through the EU to a non-EU country. EU hauliers similarly enjoy quota free access for point to point journeys from the EU to GB and for transit movements across GB to Ireland.

Following a laden movement from GB to the EU, up to two additional movements in the EU will be possible with a maximum of one cabotage movement performed within seven days of dropping off the goods brought into the EU, and the other a cross-trade movement. Further, GB hauliers who have an European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permit for 2021 can carry out one additional cross-trade job (three haulage jobs in total) before returning to GB.

For Northern Ireland operators, both additional movements may be cabotage movements in Ireland, provided they follow a laden journey from Northern Ireland, and are performed within seven days.

For EU drivers working in GB, following a laden movement from the EU to GB, up to two additional movements in GB will be permitted provided they are performed  within seven days of dropping off the goods brought into GB.

1Cabotage involves the movement of goods between two points within one EU Member State, for example from Barcelona to Madrid. 
2Cross-trade involves the movement of goods between two EU Member States, for example from Madrid to Paris.

It would be prudent for drivers to verify recognition of existing Driver CPC qualifications depending on where the qualification was obtained and where you intend to operate. 

UK legislation currently allows EU drivers working for GB operators to continue doing so with a Driver CPC awarded by EU member states. However, if such drivers wish to have long-term certainty on their ability to work for GB operators, they should consider exchanging their EU Driver CPC for a UK Driver CPC.

Drivers holding a UK CPC, who work, or plan to work for an EU or EEA company should now take action. EU or EEA employers from 1 January 2021 might not recognise a UK Driver CPC as a valid qualification. Drivers working or wishing to work for EU or EEA businesses should exchange their UK Driver CPC for an EU Driver CPC.

It would be prudent for drivers to verify recognition of existing transport manager CPC qualifications depending on where the qualification was obtained and where you intend to operate. 

UK legislation currently allows EU transport managers working for GB operators to continue doing so with a transport manager CPC awarded by EU member states. However, if such transport managers wish to have long-term certainty on their ability to work for UK operators, they should consider exchanging their EU transport manager CPC for a GB transport manager CPC.

Transport managers holding a UK CPC, who work, or plan to work for an EU or EEA company should now take action. EU or EEA employers from 1 January 2021 might not recognise a UK transport manager CPC as a valid qualification. Transport managers working or wishing to work for EU or EEA businesses should exchange their UK transport manager CPC for an EU transport manager CPC.

While there is no fundamental requirement to review your standard terms and conditions, depending on your particular role in the supply chain, it may be prudent to do so. Updated versions of standard terms and conditions in some instances have been developed, with a view of more accurately defining the contractual position post Brexit. The British International Freight Association (BIFA) have recently published a 2021 version of their standard trading conditions. Therein, there are a small number of technical changes relating to stakeholders undertaking Customs clearance activities, defining the capacity in which your business is acting (Direct/Indirect Representation). The revision provides those Members who have incorporated the 2021 STC’s additional protection. 

Should your business review and elect to change their STC’s, due consideration must be given to sufficiently incorporating the new STC’s into all contracts with your customers. Failure to do so, might result in you not being able to rely upon the STC’s. 

From the end of the Brexit Transition period on 1 January 2021, existing EU sanctions law will continue to apply in GB as retained law under the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018, wherever GB has not introduced its own sanctions in respect of a specific area or regime. Such introduction will be achieved principally by progressive transfer of sanctions within the regime created by the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018. Although sanctions law in GB and the EU has generally shared the same objectives, there have always been stylistic, and sometimes substantive, differences. These differences are clearly likely to increase through this process, with the upshot that it cannot be assumed that GB and EU sanctions are identical. 

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.

The information in our FAQs is correct as at 28 January 2021.