Government accelerates border planning for the end of the Transition Period

Following the Government’s formal notification to the EU that the UK will neither accept nor seek any extension to the Transition Period, the Government has announced that border controls for EU goods imported into Great Britain will be introduced in stages at the end of Transition Period to give businesses affected by coronavirus more time to prepare.

The Government explains that, from 1 January 2021, the UK will have the autonomy to introduce its own approach to goods imported to GB from the EU. Recognising the impact of coronavirus on businesses’ ability to prepare, and following the announcement in February that the UK would implement full border controls on imports coming into GB from the EU, the UK has taken the decision to introduce the new border controls in three stages up until 1 July 2021. The Government says that this “flexible and pragmatic approach” will give industry extra time to make necessary arrangements. The stages are:

  • 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 like alcohol and tobacco. Businesses will also need to consider how they account for VAT on imported goods. There will also be physical checks at the point of destination or other approved premises on all high risk live animals and plants;
  • from April 2021: all products of animal origin (POAO), for example 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;
  • from July 2021: all traders moving 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 Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) 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.

The Government also announced a new £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 new 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.

Additionally, the Government committed to building new border facilities in GB for carrying out required checks, such as customs compliance, transit, and SPS checks, as well as providing targeted support to ports to build new infrastructure. Where there is no space at ports for new infrastructure, the Government will build new inland sites where these checks and other activities will take place. The Government is consulting with ports across the UK to agree what infrastructure is required.

The Government says that it will continue to work closely with the border industry on these new procedures as well as other sector priorities. A border-operating model will be published in July 2020.

Finally, the Government makes clear that this approach is for GB/EU trade. This approach does not apply to the flow of trade between Northern Ireland and Ireland, or between Northern Ireland and GB, which is covered by the Withdrawal Agreement. To read the Government’s press release in full, click here.