Brexit: Trade


The UK has reached a free trade agreement with the European Union that came into force following the end of the transition period (31st December 2020).

The GBCC is here to help businesses adapt to the new trading arrangements and will continue to provide businesses with Brexit related support and services following the end of the transition period.

For more information on GBCC Brexit workshops and webinars click here, for our international trade training courses click here and for our “Bitesize Brexit” videos click here.

What you need to do now?

The end of the transition period brings significant changes to the ways in which businesses trade with the European Union. We have outlined below some practical steps that businesses should take to prepare for these changes.

Please note that this information does not constitute legal advice and there may be further aspects or steps specific to your business or industry which you may need to consider.


Prepare to make customs declarations

✓ Understand customs declarations and whether you will be required to complete them.

✓ Decide whether to appoint a Customs Intermediary (such as a customs broker or freight forwarder) to manage responsibility for fulfilment of key paperwork and requirements on your behalf

✓ Ensure you have your GB EORI number or EU EORI number (for those businesses making customs declarations or needing customs decisions in the EU)

✓ Check here to see if you can delay making a full customs declaration on goods imported from the EU for up to 6 months after import.

Prepare to pay import VAT and customs duties

✓ Consider using Postponed VAT accounting which will allow you to account for import VAT on your VAT return

✓ Apply for a duty deferment account here if you import regularly or wish to defer payments. 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

✓ Find out the correct commodity code for your goods here so you will be able to calculate the rate of duty and import VAT you will need to pay. You can use the government’s UK Global Tariff tool here to check the duty rates that apply to the goods you import from countries that the UK does not have a trade agreement with.

Understand your obligations relating to the delivery of the goods

✓ Familiarise yourself with the different International Commercial Terms (Incoterms) rules which are used to clarify whether the buyer or the seller is responsible for the shipment & costs involved in delivering the goods (customs procedures, duties & tax, insurance etc)

Exporting goods to the EU on a temporary basis (e.g. for trade shows)

✓ Familiarise yourself with ATA Carnets if you are looking to move goods into the EU on a temporary basis without having to pay duties

Moving controlled or restricted goods between the UK & the EU

✓ Check here whether you need to apply for a license or certificate to bring in goods from the EU or export them to the EU


What is a Free Trade Deal?

A free trade deal is an agreement between two or more countries to provide preferential access to each others markets that goes beyond World Trade Organisation (WTO Rules). Trade deals typically involve negotiations over:

  • Reducing (or eliminating) tariffs on goods
  • Quotas (limits on the amount of goods that can be traded)
  • Trade in services
  • Intellectual Property
  • Foreign Investment

EU-UK Trade & Cooperation Agreement

The UK and the EU announced that they had reached a free trade deal (EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement) on the 24th December 2020. The deal sets out the new trading arrangements which includes:

  • Zero tariffs or quotas on goods traded between the UK and the EU providing the goods meet the relevant rules of origin
  • Traders can self-certify the origin of their goods and full bilateral cumulation will apply (i.e. processing activities will count towards the origin of the goods)
  • Mutual recognition of trusted trader programmes
  • Facilitations for short-term business trips

However, businesses should be aware that:

UK businesses will need to comply with customs formalities and checks when moving goods across the UK/EU border

No equivalence of conformity assessment meaning UK businesses will need to meet both UK and EU standards and regulations when placing goods on both markets.

UK businesses that supply services in the EU will no longer have automatic access to EU markets and will need to comply with the host rules in each EU member state

No mutual recognition of professional qualifications agreed in the deal

Find Out More Here

The UK/EU Border

The UK government is introducing new border controls on imports coming into Great Britain from the EU in stages.

The stages are as follows:

  • From 1st January 2021: firms importing standard goods (such as clothes, electronics etc.) will be subject to basic customs procedures, but will be able to defer completing the required customs declarations and paying the relevant tariff for up to 6 months. Checks on controlled goods such as alcohol will remain.
  • From 1st October 2021: products of animal origin (e.g. meat, milk or egg products) imported will require pre-notification and the appropriate health paperwork.
  • From 1st January 2022: firms will be required to pay relevant tariffs and declare goods at the point of importation. Full safety and security declarations will also be required.

Find Out More Here

The UK Global Tariff 

The UK Global Tariff sets out the new post-Brexit tariff regime which is scheduled to come into effect from the 1st January 2021. It will replace the EU’s Common External tariff and will apply to imported goods from countries which trade with the UK on WTO terms.

View briefing paper here

Trading with Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland remains a part of the UK customs territory but will continue to apply EU customs rules and procedures at its ports to avoid the need for customs checks at the Irish border.

This has resulted in a range of new processes and checks that businesses need to be aware of when moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Find Out More Here