Last reviewed 12 June 2020

As we reported in Government likely to ease controls on EU imports, the Cabinet Office has confirmed that border controls for EU goods imported into Great Britain will be introduced at the end of transition period in stages. This will, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove said, give businesses affected by coronavirus more time to prepare.

Mr Gove was speaking after a meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee at which he confirmed the Government’s long-standing position that it would not be seeking, nor agreeing to, an extension to the transition period.

Control in stages

The UK will, however, take more time over the required new border controls, introducing them in three stages.

  1. 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, and will have up to six months to complete customs declarations. While tariffs will need to be paid on all imports, payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made. There will be checks on controlled goods such as alcohol and tobacco.

  2. From April 2021: All products of animal origin — eg meat, pet food, honey, milk or egg products — and all regulated plants and plant products will also require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation.

  3. From July 2021: Traders moving all goods will have to make declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs. Full Safety and Security declarations will be required, while for SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) commodities there will be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples: checks for animals, plants and their products will now take place at GB Border Control Posts.

This approach does not apply to the flow of trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland, or between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Support package

Mr Gove also announced a £50 million support package to boost the capacity of the customs intermediary sector — including customs brokers, freight forwarders and express parcel operators — providing businesses with further support ahead of the processes taking effect in July 2021.

This funding will support intermediaries with recruitment, training and supplying IT equipment to help handle customs declarations. Rules will also be changed to remove barriers for intermediaries taking on new clients.

Applications for the new funding will be open from July and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) will provide more details in due course.

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The Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) have both given their support to the Government moves praising them as a sensible and pragmatic approach to the problems raised by businesses.