54% of UK imports come from the EU, at a value of £345 billion. The UK border will become the literal frontier of a no deal exit, with disruption for supply chains a serious risk.
Key challenges for business
How will the rules for importing from the EU change after no deal?
In the first months and even the first year of no deal, there will not be many substantial legal changes to importing goods from the EU. This is because the UK government has stated that it will prioritise the flow of goods at the border over revenue collection or safety and security, and because it has said it will continue to recognise EU standards and regulations on goods.
The biggest procedural changes for most importing businesses will be the need to have a GB EORI number; that there will be some new tariffs imposed on a limited number of EU goods such as complete cars which will face a tariff of around 10%; and to make import declarations. However, there are steps firms can take to allow import declarations to be deferred so they can happen away from the border, and in bulk.
What impact could the changes to importing rules have on business?
There is a substantial risk that a combination of these new importing procedures – with, for example, UK importing firms not knowing their EORI number or not having signed up for transitional simplified procedures – and new, much more substantially burdensome, procedures to export to the EU, that there will be delays for imports. While the UK government has taken significant steps to try and ease the flow of goods into the UK, they will still be entering the UK on trains, planes, ferries and lorries that export to the EU at the other end of their journey loop and as such could face disruption.
For businesses, the impact of delays is most of concern when it comes to cashflow, just-in-time supply chains and perishable goods.
How will importing work across the Republic of Ireland/Northern Irish border?
At the new EU/UK border, the UK government has put specific mitigations in place to deal with the unique situation for this border. It has said that it will not introduce any new checks or controls on goods entering Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland, including no additional customs requirements for nearly all goods. The exceptions are trade in dangerous chemicals, ozone-depleting substances and F-gases which would require electronic notification; endangered species and rough diamonds that would need to be sent via Belfast International Airport; dual-use and torture goods that would require licenses; and high risk plant material that require an electronic pre-notification and phytosanitary certificate. All other goods will be able to enter Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland freely.
The other differences businesses in Northern Ireland should consider are around tariffs and VAT. Tariffs will not be applied on goods crossing from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland. And VAT will still apply on imports from the Republic of Ireland. VAT-registered importers will need to continue to account for this on their normal VAT returns, and non-VAT registered importers will need to report VAT periodically online.
Analysis of preparedness - RAG rating
Key questions for business to consider
Continuity plans for no deal will be unique to every organisation. However, there are some key questions your plan should answer, to ensure the major issues are covered.
- Do you know your GB Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number?
- Does your business understand the impact of potential delays at the border on your supply chain, particularly if you import perishable goods or use a just-in-time supply chain?
- Have you spoken to your customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider about how to make import declarations, or explored engaging one?
- Have you considered whether you can stockpile any important products you would normally import, to avoid having to trade during no deal?
- Have you looked into whether you are eligible to register for Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP) to import from the EU?
- Have you familiarised yourself with VAT rules for importing from the EU and considered any cash flow implications?
- Have you considered how the UK’s no deal tariffs may impact the goods that you will import, whether you can take advantage of cheaper imports from outside the EU and whether you might face new competition from abroad?
- Have you set up a duty deferment account if you import regularly?
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Preparing for no deal: the changes for importing goods from the EU
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Other resources to help you plan
Look into your Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number here. This will make it easier to move goods into or out of the EU in a no deal scenario.
Read this mythbuster on EORI for more information
Sign up for Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP) for imported goods here. You will need an EORI number to do this.
Explore grants available if your business will have to complete customs here.
Check the rates of customs duties (tariffs) that will be applied to all imports – not just those with the EU – here.
If your goods cross into Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland, read the UK government’s guidance on how it intends to avoid a border here.
If you operate your own cross-border road haulage, ensure you have the right licenses, permits, travel insurance and registration documents by following guidance here. Alternatively, check out the advice provided by the Freight Transport Association here and the advice provided by the Road Haulage Association here.
If you import or export chemicals, meat, dairy or live animals, see these process flowcharts here.
If you import or export to or from the EU using roll on roll off (RoRo) ports, see these flowcharts here.
If you need further support, there is a new government Imports and Exports helpline. The number is 0300 3301 331 and lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.