Customs and Tariffs

Brexit customs and tariffs advice and checklist


You will need to have the correct procedures in place to deal with Customs and Tariffs issues. These are likely to become critical areas after Brexit, given that the UK will be leaving the EU Customs Union.

We detail below the main areas of potential impact on businesses who export from the UK and/or import into the UK, as well as for individuals who travel outside the UK.

In November 2020 it published guidance confirming new requirements for businesses wanting to place manufactured goods in the GB market from January 2020.

It also published guidance to Trading under WTO rules.

In September 2020 the UK government published guidance on Placing manufactured goods on the EU market after the end of the Transition Period.

In July 2020, the UK government published a 206 page paper, setting out the its “new Border Operating Model” from 1 January 2021.  It details key issues for anyone who imports/exports. This was then updated in October 2020 with an Updated Border Operating Model.  It also updated its Guide to the Border Operating Model.

The UK government has published this advice for businesses in terms of “Actions you can take now that do not depend on negotiations.

The EU have published this detailed Customs guide for businesses.

DExEU has published this Note on (a) Regulation of manufactured goods in a No Deal Brexit scenario and (b) Preparing for the changes which Brexit will bring

HMRC has published this collection, which brings together regulations, explanatory memoranda, and an impact assessment in preparation for day 1, if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.

HMRC has also published this explainer on EORI numbers.

HMG has issued letters on ‘no deal’ Brexit advice for businesses only trading with the EU, which can be found here.

HMRC Partnership Pack’ on preparing for a No Deal Brexit
This was first issued in October 2018 and was continuously updated until January. It can still be found by clicking here.  New guidance on Customs, VAT and Excise UK transition legislation from 1 January 2021 can be found by clicking here.

UK view on a No Deal Brexit for trade in goods
HMG’s Technical Notices on the implications of a no-deal outcome was first issued in August 2018 and has since been continuously updated.

Trade remedies if there’s no Brexit deal
Trading with the EU if there’s no Brexit deal
Classifying your goods in the UK Trade Tariff if there’s no Brexit deal

We summarise the key issues below.

Northern Ireland

The government has begun publishing detailed advice for trade between Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and N Ireland, as required under the EU Withdrawal Agreement. The key issue is that N Ireland will remain part of the EU Single Market and Customs Union after Brexit on 1 January 2021, whilst Great Britain will have left at the end of the Transition Period.  The aim is to avoid a ‘hard border’ between North and South in Ireland, and support the Good Friday Agreement:

Support service for Northern Ireland trade goes live. 

Letters to businesses in Northern Ireland about new processes for moving goods from 1 January 2021

Placing manufactured goods on the market in Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021

Trade remedies if there’s no Brexit deal

The government has indicated that if the UK exits the EU with No Deal, a UK Trade Remedies Authority (TRA) will become operational with immediate effect i.e. 1 January 2020. It will be:

‘a new arm’s length body to investigate complaints of unfair trading practices and unforeseen surges in imports, which cause injury to UK industry.’

Until 31 December, and irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations with the EU, the current complaint system as administered by the European Commission (DG Trade) will continue to operate. Details of how the EU Commission administers Trade and Competition law can be found here.

Currently, DG Trade operates and administers Competition rulings across the EU, rather than on an individual country basis. To be upheld, complaints need to demonstrate that upwards of 25% of the EU production has been adversely affected by a particular trade practice. But if the TRA becomes operational, it will focus solely on the UK and Northern Ireland, and operate in compliance with applicable World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

The UK government has invited comment from industry on which current EU Competition measures should be maintained under the TRA. The final choice will be reviewed and maintained as appropriate to the UK. Further background can be found here.

Trading with the EU if there’s no Brexit deal

In the event of No Deal, the UK will become a ‘3rd country’ in terms of its trading status with the EU27. This means that:

The UK has applied to re-join the Common Transit Convention (CTC) whereby charges (including duty) will only be payable in the destination country. More information can be found here

Classifying your goods in the UK Trade Tariff if there’s no Brexit deal

In the event that the UK leaves the EU with No Deal, duty-free trading between the UK and EU markets will cease – and duties and export/import procedures will be introduced. In the case of the EU, unless otherwise agreed, it is likely that the UK will trade on the same basis as other ‘3rd countries’. In the case of the UK, it will be free to set its own level of duties and tariffs for both EU and non-EU markets. The key points are set out below:

  • Until 31 December 2020 the status quo remains in terms of goods tariffs classification, i.e. goods will continue to circulate free of customs duties and interventions within the EU. For goods entering the EU from a non-EU country, or a country without an FTA with the EU, duties into the EU at point of entry will be charged at the Most Favoured Nation duty rates and the goods subject to normal Customs procedures from a third country. Thereafter, goods may circulate within the EU duty free and without intervention
  • Should the UK and EU fail to agree a deal, goods traded between the UK and the EU after 23:00 GMT on 31 December 2020 will be subject to the same requirements as 3rd country goods, including the payment of duty. The EU briefing on exporting to the EU can be found hereUK guidance on importing can be found here
  • Under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, the principle of most-favoured-nation (MFN) treatment means that, unless a preferential agreement is in place, the EU will charge the same rate of duty on the same goods. This must be charged to all WTO members equally with no preferential origin to apply.
  • Within the provisions of the Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill, the UK can choose to set Tariffs for imports into the UK at the rates it deems appropriate for both EU and non-EU trading partners. Current tariff classifications can be found here, where they are also updated
  • UK goods exported to the EU will be subject to MFN tariffs under WTO rules. The current EU tariff classifications can be found here
  • The UK will seek to transition all existing EU FTAs to be applicable to the UK from 1 January 2021. A list of all current EU Free Trade Agreements with the EU can be found here

It is also important to note that Technical Barriers to Trade may also apply to trade under WTO rules, and these may be more significant than any tariff arrangements. Further details can be found in the Directory here.

The Food & Drink Federation have established a Brexit hub for their members.