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, even if an agreement is reached to remain in 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.

HMRC Partnership Pack’ on preparing for a No Deal Brexit – October 2018

This contains 24 separate documents, which can be found by clicking here.

UK view on a No Deal Brexit for trade in goods – August 2018

HMG’s first batch of Technical Notices on the implications of a no-deal outcome include 3 Notices which deal with the implications for companies that import into the UK, or are exporters into the EU (including markets covered under the Free Trade Agreements with non-EU countries):

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.


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. 30 March 2019. 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 29 March, 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 current Customs & Excise rules applying to non-EU/EEA territories will also apply between the UK and EU
  • Customs declarations and safety/security declarations will be required for the movement of goods
  • Current UK import rules can be found here
  • EU Customs & Excise rules will apply on all movements between the EU and the UK as for non-EU trading partners
  • Current guidance for exporting into the EU as a non-EU country, or country with no FTA, can be found here
  • The Excise Movement Control System (EMCS) will no longer be used to control suspended movements between the EU and the UK. (EMCS would continue to be used to control the movement of duty suspended excise goods within the UK, including movements to and from UK ports, airports and the Channel tunnel.)  More information on how ECMS operates can be found here

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 29 March 2019 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 29 March 2019 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 here.  UK 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 30 March.  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.