The UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) came into effect on 1 January 2021. GB imports from the EU have permanently changed under the UK-EU TCA, with new customs processes, administration and checks. Businesses will need to ensure they have adjusted to the significant changes this brings to their operations.
The guidance on this page represents the information currently available from government. The CBI will update this page as new information is released.
Key challenges for business
How will the rules for importing from the EU to GB change under the UK-EU TCA?
Zero tariffs and quotas on goods
- The UK and the EU agreed to zero tariff and zero quota trade on goods, meaning that businesses will not face costly tariffs. However, to qualify for tariff-free access, firms will need to ensure goods meet Rules of Origin requirements as set out in the treaty, ensuring these goods meet the ‘local’ qualification criteria.
Customs and trade facilitation
The government introduced a new staged approach to imports that became effective from 1 January 2021. While there will still be considerable changes that importers will need to adjust to, the
- From January 2021:
- Traders importing standard goods, covering everything from clothes to electronics, will need to prepare for basic customs requirements, such as keeping sufficient records of imported goods.
- Traders will also need to consider how they account for and pay VAT on imported goods. Traders will then have up to six months to complete customs declarations. While tariffs will be payable where due on relevant goods, payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made.
- UK safety and security declarations will not be required on imports for the first six months. Standard customs declarations will be needed from this date for controlled goods and excise goods like alcohol and tobacco products.
- There will also be physical checks at the point of destination (or other approved premises) on all high-risk live animals and plants, and a requirement to pre-notify for certain movements. However, they will not be required to enter GB via a Border Control Post (BCP).
- Export declarations and UK exit safety and security declarations will be required for all goods.
- Traders importing and exporting goods using the Common Transit Convention will need to follow all the transit procedures. These will not be introduced in stages.
- The goods vehicle movement service (GVMS) will be introduced from January for transit movements only.
- Companies importing goods will need to adapt to new import tariff schedules, applying the UK’s new global tariff (UKGT) for all markets where the UK does not have a preferential trading deal, as well as checking the terms of any new preferential trade deal, including with the EU.
- From April 2021:
- All products of animal origin (POAO) – for example meat, honey, milk or egg products, and all regulated plants and plant products – will require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation.
- Any physical checks will continue to be conducted at the point of destination until July 2021.
- From July 2021:
- Traders moving any goods will have to make full customs declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs.
- Full safety and security declarations will be required, while commodities subject to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls will have to be presented to Border Control Posts. There will also be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples.
- SPS checks for animals, plants and their products will take place at GB Border Control Posts and not at the destination.
- The GVMS will be in place for all imports, exports and transit movements at border locations which have chosen to introduce it.
After July, the trading conditions will default to the UK-EU TCA where:
- The agreement will require customs declarations and paperwork for businesses to process the movement of goods.
- It also provides for mutual recognition of the Authorised Economic Operator – Safety & Security scheme, allowing for streamlined customs procedures for traders already registered.
- Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) border checks will be required for trade of live animals and products of animal origin, meaning that agri-food traders will be met with extra costs and burden when looking to export their products.
Rules of Origin
- Access to the zero tariffs and quotas will however depend on whether the goods meet the Rules of Origin required in the agreement to qualify as ‘local’. This will mean that businesses will have to identify the full origin of their goods as well as provide additional paperwork in order to qualify.
- However, the EU and UK have jointly agreed additional flexibility in the following ways:
- The UK’s staged import controls under the Border Operating Model mean that full declarations for goods that are not on the controlled list do not need to be made for the first six months.
- For UK-EU trade, until 31 December 2021, businesses do not need supplier’s declarations from business suppliers in place when the goods are exported. Businesses may be asked to retrospectively provide a supplier’s declaration after this date.
You can read more detail on Rules of Origin in the UK government guidance.