Last reviewed 7 November 2019

Several European organisations have asked for what they are calling a grace period for consignments that start their journey before a hard Brexit and arrive after the date the UK leaves the European Union.

They argue that it will not be possible to declare these consignments for export to the UK as, at the time where the goods leave the Union, the UK would still be an EU Member State.

The organisations concerned include FoodDrinkEurope, the International Road Transport Union (IRU), EuroCommerce, Amfori and AmChamEU (the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union).

They argue that a contingency solution is needed to address this issue in order to ease trade flows, avoid potentially chaotic border delays in a no-deal Brexit and align with UK contingency measures.

After Brexit, goods reaching the EU external border will require full customs documentation and processing as per any movement to and/or from a third (non-EU) country.

However, operators will not be able to initiate formal customs procedures when the goods are picked up prior to the Brexit date, since EU customs IT systems will still consider the UK an EU Member State and these goods will still have EU status.

“This will result in a catch-22 situation in which operators are not able to lodge the necessary declarations at pick up,” the organisations point out, “but will be required to present such documentation on arrival at the border.”

They have also warned UK exporters that the same problems will apply to them.

Under UK Brexit guidance, goods will maintain their Union status if they are picked up/accepted for carriage prior to the withdrawal date, meaning that they will not require an export declaration to leave the UK.

On arrival in the EU, however, an import declaration will be required — a formality that cannot be initiated at the time of pick up.

The European trade bodies are therefore proposing that the movements of goods started before the withdrawal date but arriving after it continue to be treated as intra-EU movements, regardless of the mode of transport used.