Last reviewed 18 February 2021

Although a deal has been reached between the UK and the EU, the resultant free trade agreement will only cover the tariffs and duties to be paid on goods being moved and not the more complex customs arrangements that must be resolved at the border. Richard Smith here outlines the facilities and processes for the movement of general goods to France.

Customs Declarations

There are three ways to meet the requirements for the customs process when shipping goods between GB and mainland Europe:

  • Common Transit (CT) — essentially the same method used in the EU for most intra-EU shipments (when it is called Union Transit), this involves customs formalities taking place away from the border so that delays boarding or disembarking from ferries are avoided.

  • TIR — operates in a similar way to CT with customs checks away from the border but requires vehicles and containers to be specially certified by DVSA and sealed after inspection.

  • Pre-notification — only applies at locations where there are no customs control systems or when CT and TIR are not possible. It is a more complex system and checks will be made at the border.

The consignor of the goods will choose which method to use according to the nature of the consignment but any haulage company should be able to cope with CT and pre-declaration; TIR will require the haulage company to have appropriately certified vehicles.

Safety and Security Declarations

All the above methods require safety and security declarations to be made as well as the specific requirements of the particular method. There are two types of security declaration: an exit summary declaration (EXS) and an entry summary declaration (ENS). For exports from GB to France the EXS is submitted to HMRC through the Customs Input of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) computer system or the new Customs Declaration Service and the ENS to the French customs through approved electronic data interchange software by the haulier before crossing the border.

When the chosen customs process is pre-declaration the documentation used for that will also usually provide the required EXS. In the case of CT or TIR a separate stand-alone EXS will be required.

Kent Access Permit (KAP)

A KAP is mandatory for all goods vehicles over 7.5 tonnes leaving GB via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel. The permit is valid for 24 hours and drivers who enter Kent for travel via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel without one can be fined up to £300.

The permit is generated from the “Check an HGV is Ready to Cross the Border” online service which will also check that all the customs formalities have been completed and the driver has the correct documentation. The use of this service is mandatory for all shipments via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel as it is the only way to get a KAP.

Check an HGV is Ready to Cross the Border

This online service — here — will check that all the customs formalities have been completed and the driver has the correct documentation. Its use is not mandatory for ports other than Dover or Eurotunnel. If the driver selects Port of Dover or Eurotunnel as the port of departure from GB the system will generate the KAP as well as checking the documentation. If the selection is “Other ports in Great Britain” the KAP will not be generated.

If the system determines that the vehicle is not ready because the driver does not have all the necessary documentation, it will give instructions on how to get the documentation which may include directing the driver to an Inland Border Facility.

Information and Advice Sites

These have been set up by the Government at motorway service areas and truck stops around GB. See the list of sites — here.

The current need for drivers and other crew members to have a negative Covid-19 test result up to 72 hours before travel to France, Denmark and the Netherlands is an additional complication and free testing is available at most of the haulier information and advice sites.

As well as taking a free Covid-19 check (at most sites) drivers can find out more about the rules and documents needed for moving goods between the UK and EU and complete the free “Check an HGV is Ready to Cross the Border” check to ensure they have all the correct documentation to cross the EU border.

Inland Border Facilities

Inland border facilities (IBFs) are sites established by the Government where customs and documents checks can take place away from the ports. IBFs act as government offices of departure for exports and government offices of destination for imports. For exports being shipped under CT or TIR the haulier’s driver must usually present the goods at the IBF after loading and before going to the port of exit and, for imports, after disembarking from the ferry and before unloading at the destination. IBFs for Dover and the Channel Tunnel are at North Weald, Ebbsfleet or Sevington and all are open 24/7. Sevington is for both inbound and outbound traffic, the others are for outbound traffic only.

The driver may also be directed to an IBF if the “Check an HGV is Ready to Cross the Border” service determines that there are still requirements to be satisfied.

Authorised Consignor/Consignee

An Authorised Consignor/Consignee is a person approved by the relevant government and meeting certain strict conditions. An Authorised Consignor/Consignee is able to start/end the CT or TIR procedure from his/her own premises without the need for the driver to visit an IBF.

Goods to France under Common Transit or TIR

Although these are two separate systems, the procedures are broadly similar.

If the consignor of the goods is an Authorised Consignor, the driver will be given:

  • a Transit Accompanying Document (TAD) for CT, or

  • a TIR carnet.

The driver can then proceed directly to the port.

If the consignor is not an Authorised Consignor, the driver will be given:

  • a Local Reference Number (LRN) or an unreleased TAD for CT

  • the carnet for TIR.

The driver must then go first to a UK Office of Departure at an IBF. At the IBF the UK Border Force will make any checks necessary to release the goods and:

  • give the driver a released TAD for CT

  • seal the vehicle and stamp and detach page 1 of the TIR carnet.

The driver can then proceed to the port of exit.

At the EU border the driver presents the TAD or TIR carnet to the EU customs authorities in order to proceed. After entering the EU, if the consignee is an Authorised Consignee the driver may then go direct to the consignee’s premises for the procedure to be closed. If the consignee is not an Authorised Consignee the driver must go to an EU office of destination for the movement to be closed before going on to the consignee for unloading.

Safety and Security declarations will also be required for export and import.

Goods to France under Pre-declaration

The consignor must complete all customs and safety and security declarations before the vehicle is loaded. When this is confirmed permission to progress will be given and the goods can be taken to the port of exit. On occasions further checks may be needed and the goods must go first to an IBF.

At the ferry terminal or Eurotunnel “pitstop” the driver shows the Movement Reference Number (MRN) barcode from the customs declaration. This is scanned and matched with the vehicle registration number. The driver will be informed during the crossing if he can proceed, if a declaration needs to be made to EU customs or if there are any other problems to be addressed.

If the vehicle contains multiple consignments the separate barcodes for each must be scanned by the driver or consignor before boarding using the online Prodouanes app. This links them all together under a single MRN “envelope” so that the driver only needs to present this one MRN barcode.

More details about this issue can be found in Trading with the EU.