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Prepare for full customs controls for trade with the EU

Karen Robb Karen Robb

The UK government has updated the Border Operating Model (BOM) to lay out new customs and border requirements and procedures for goods imported from or exported to the EU. Karen Robb and Nicola Haynes explain what you need to know about customs checks after Brexit.

To allow trade time to prepare for the new procedures, the government set out a staged timetable for introduction of all the border controls, including temporary easements on customs declaration, in July 2021. A revised timetable was announced on14 September and 18 November 2021. Businesses should now be preparing for the end of those temporary easements in 2022.

While it's not a requirement, it is anticipated that most businesses will use the services of a specialist intermediary, such as a customs broker to complete the necessary border declarations. It's vitally important that all importers and exporters are fully aware of the revised border requirements, as responsibility for the accuracy of the information provided in the declarations remains with you.

The transition to full border controls - what's happened so far?

To help you prepare for these changes, here's a recap of the current situation. 

  • There’s now a requirement for full export declarations for goods moved from the UK to the EU
  • The easement for importers to allow import declarations from the EU to be delayed by up to 175 days for most goods ceased on 31 December 2021. No prior approval was needed, but businesses must still retain sufficient detail in commercial records for the complete supplementary declaration to be submitted within this timeframe
  • Existing import declaration processes can be used (ie those currently available for rest-of-the-world imports)
  • Optional postponed import VAT accounting introduced to alleviate cash flow burden of paying and reclaiming import
  • The current easements on full customs controls have been removed, and customs checks introduced, plus prior notification of agri-food imports will be required. How soon before shipment this is needed will vary as time limits for this will depend on transport route
  • The temporary easement for the requirement to hold supplier declarations (where required) prior to issuing exporters statements on origin for export to the EU ceased for businesses using the EU-EU trade agreement. Suppliers' declarations will usually be necessary where you purchase goods for onward sale unaltered, or you need evidence of the originating status of production inputs to calculate the origin of your goods
  • VAT requirement for exit summary declarations for empty containers and pallets not requiring full export declarations was introduced 1 Oct 2021

What's coming?

The first set of big changes were introduced in January 2022, with further requirements and updates in the summer. These are the key requirements you need to look out for.

July 2022

Phytosanitary certificates and physical checks on some but not all sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) goods will be introduced at specific border control posts. There will be new requirements for export health certificates for animal and plant products. Safety and security declarations for all imports will also become mandatory - this is a pre-notification usually provided by the haulier or shipper.

September 2022

Full certification and examination of dairy produce subjects to SPS controls has been further delayed until September, instead of the planned date of July 2022.

November 2022

There are additional delays for the last remaining goods subject to SPS controls to require certification and physical checks. This applies to the remaining products of animal origin, including composite products containing meat (pizza, pies, and ready meals etc), fish and fish products.

What should you do now?

Some of the easements ended on December 2021, so we strongly recommend that to ensure supply chain continuity in 2022, you, along with your suppliers and transport operators are fully prepared for the new border requirements and make suitable arrangements in advance of goods shipment.

If you've been using the delayed declaration easement you now use full customs declarations from 1 January 2022. You may want to consider using a customs intermediary to make declarations on your behalf if you do not already have one. You need to understand the requirements of your specific supply chain as border processes can vary depending on the mode of transport used and the specific port or airport where the goods arrive in the UK.

Make sure that relevant personnel within your businesses supply chain, customs, and tax function are coordinated, aware of the changes, and whether they need to take any action. You also need to make sure your suppliers and hauliers are aware of the changes.

To submit import declarations in a timely manner, you need to have the required customs information on your goods in advance. You will be expected to provide your customs intermediary with your EORI number together with information on the type of goods: their quantity, value, weights, country of origin, and any certifications etc. Your intermediary will advise you of their exact requirements. Import entries can be lodged up to three weeks prior to the goods being shipped, giving plenty of time to obtain the requested information.

Be aware that if you are using some of the short straight routes, eg, Calais-Dover, UK import declarations may need to be submitted prior to the ferry sailing.

If you import food, plants, and animal products you’ll notice the biggest changes. It’s important to ensure you have all the required registrations and systems access to provide the necessary notifications to the appropriate border agency. This is a separate requirement in addition to the customs declaration.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of customs checks after Brexit, or get guidance on the requirements for specific goods, contact Karen Robb.

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