Importing and Exporting Goods from and to the EU from 1st January 2021

14th July 2020

The UK government has provided guidelines for how importers and exporters can prepare for new trade rules once the UK has left the Single Market and EU Customs Union.

Here are ten key takeaways from the government’s announcement:

1. Get ready for Customs declarations

Importers and exporters will need to complete Customs declarations next year, regardless of whether the UK strikes a free trade deal with the EU. To complete declarations, the government has asked businesses to ensure they:

  • Have a GB economic Operator Registration and Identification number (EORI number)
  • Decide if they will use a customs intermediary such as the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.
  • Know the customs value and commodity code for their goods
  • Consider simplifications and facilitations such as customs freight simplified procedures (CFSPs), warehousing, inward processing, and transit.

2. 3-phase plan for imports confirmed

The three-phase plan for introducing controls on imports, initially announced in June, has been confirmed.

Under this plan, declarations can be deferred (for up to six months) for all imports of standard goods from the EU until July next year and will be introduced earlier in January for controlled goods such as alcohol and tobacco.

3. Import VAT

VAT will be levied on consignments of EU goods exceeding £135 in value.

VAT-registered importers will be able to use postponed VAT accounting and different rules will apply to consignments valued less than £135.

4. UK Global Tariff

Importers will need to pay customs duties as set under the new UK Global Tariff, which was announced in May.

Duty will need to be paid on the basis of the origin, classification and customs value of the imported goods.

Duty deferments options are available, and traders should note that any declarations for EU-to-GB trade which are deferred under the three stage import controls will also result in postponed payment of duty.

Should the UK agree a trade deal with the EU, this deal will determine the tariffs the UK will set for EU goods instead of the UK Global Tariff.

5. Export checks from January

The EU has said it will not replicate the UK’s phased plan, so declarations will be needed for exports from 1 January 2021.

Exporters can also use the new ‘Check Duties and Customs Procedures for export goods’ tool on to identify what additional paperwork, tariffs and quotas are applicable.

Businesses can also apply to HMRC for an advance ruling on the commodity code that should be used for their goods and the origin of their goods.

6.1 S&S declarations, sanitary and phytosanitary checks

Safety and Security declarations for EU-to-GB standard goods are not required until July 2021.

There will also be physical checks at the point of destination or other approved premises on all high-risk live animals (cows, pigs and sheep) and plants from January. Documentary checks will be carried out remotely.

Products of animal origin will require pre-notification of relevant health documentation from April.

Sanitary and phytosanitary checks on animals, plants and their products arriving from the EU will be completed at specified Border Control Posts (BCPs) from July.

6.2 Export controls

The paper also says that any UK-EU deal is not expected to have an impact on strategic export controls on dual-use or possible military goods.

Exporters affected by controls will need to apply for a licence in the way they do now, using the SPIRE system run by the Department for International Trade’s Export Control Joint Unit.

7. ‘Pre-lodgement’ and ‘Temporary Storage’ models at ports

Border posts receiving goods from the EU will use one of two models:

  • The traditional Temporary Storage model, where imported goods can be stored at the frontier for up to 90 days before being declared to customs
  • The pre-lodgement model, where a customs declaration will be submitted in advance of boarding on the EU side.


A new Goods Vehicle Movement Services (GVMS) is being developed for the pre-lodgement model and will be used in Northern Ireland from 1 January and for imports to Great Britain from 1 January for transit movements and thereafter as checks are introduced, with full use in July 2021.

Goods moving between GB, NI and onto the EU will be governed by the Northern Ireland Protocol and so are not subject to the same ‘Core Models’ as GB-EU trade.

9. New ‘Smart Freight Service’ for Ro-Ro export

Government is also looking to develop a new ‘Smart Freight Service’ (SFS) to support ‘Roll-on, Roll off’ (Ro-Ro) exports, to ensure goods needing to be transported quickly are not held up by additional checks.

‘Ro-Ro’ ferries allow for trucks and vans – to drive on and off seamlessly and are vital for the quick transportation of perishable goods, including many food items and medicines.

10. Plans for Kent traffic

The government is working with the Kent Resilience Forum to explore making the use of the SFS enforceable in Kent, where there are concerns over traffic management at the start of next year when the new rules are introduced.

One option the paper says is being considered is fining HGV drivers in Kent who do not use the SFS, or who travel in contravention of advice from the SFS not to travel to the port.

The Sheffield International Trade Centre offers bespoke advice and guidance to companies regarding how the end of the transition period will affect their business and crucially their EU customers and suppliers.

For more information or to arrange a Brexit preparation and compliance audit call 0114 213 2991 or email

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