Definition of Great Britain and the EU

Great Britain is made up of England, Wales and Scotland. The European Union (EU) consists of 27 member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

There is a separate protocol for trading and moving goods to and through Northern Ireland after the transition period.

Why you need to take action

The process for importing and exporting goods to and from the EU changed at the end of the EU exit transition period. Businesses in Great Britain need to take the following action to trade with EU countries from 1 January 2021.

Exports overview

Exports to the EU need to follow the full EU import procedures. From 1 January 2021 export declarations and UK exit Safety and Security declarations are required for all relevant goods. Traders need to follow the full export process.

Post-EU Exit: Trading with the EU — How to declare goods from 1 January 2021.

Imports overview

From 1 January 2021 standard goods imported into the UK are subject to basic customs requirements, such as the requirement to pay duty, make customs declarations and account for import VAT. The Government has decided to introduce the new border controls in three stages up until 1 July 2022. Businesses have up to six months to complete customs declarations. Customs duty payments can be deferred until the declaration is made. UK Safety and Security declarations are not required on imports from the EU until July 2022.

Actions you need to take

EORI: traders must apply for a GB Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number as this is required for all businesses moving goods into or out of Great Britain, including those deferring their import declarations. Customs declarations: From January 2022 all goods will require a full customs declaration at the point of import and the relevant duties will need to be paid (subject to duty deferment). This includes a requirement to make full safety and security declarations. Also, controlled goods and goods subject to sanitary and phytosanitary controls will need to be presented to border control posts; checks will take place at these border control posts and not the destination. From this date there will be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples.

Customs intermediary: “Customs declarations are complicated”, the Government notes in its border document, so it reminds traders that the majority of businesses that currently trade outside the EU use an intermediary for this work, such as customs agents, fast parcel operators (FPOs), freight forwarders or brokers, to help them meet requirements.

Duty Deferment Account: Traders who import goods regularly may benefit from having a duty deferment account (DDA). This enables customs charges including customs duty, excise duty, and import VAT to be paid once a month through Direct Debit instead of being paid on individual consignments.

VAT on imported goods: VAT registered traders are able to account for import VAT on their VAT return by using postponed VAT accounting from 1 January 2021. Unless they are eligible to defer their supplementary declarations, they are not compelled to use postponed VAT accounting.

Commercial arrangements: Individual commercial contracts and arrangements may alter the default legal responsibilities and requirements. Contractual obligations for international commercial transactions are outlined in the Incoterms rules, which are administered by the International Chamber of Commerce.

Controlled goods: Goods that require import licences require standard customs declarations from 1 January 2021. Controlled goods include items such as Excise goods, endangered species, controlled drugs and other goods listed in Appendix C of the Government’s guidance. High-risk live animal and plant imports are subject to physical checks at the point of destination or an approved premise and there is a requirement to pre-notify certain movements of these items.

Products of animal origin: From January 2022, all products of animal origin (POAO) and all regulated plants and plant products will require pre-notification of import and the relevant health documentation will need to be submitted. Physical checks will continue to be conducted at the point of destination until July 2022. POAO products include meat, honey, milk and egg products.

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Last reviewed 18 October 2021