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EU-UK: Consequences of Brexit for businesses: A birds' eye view

Brexit has resulted in significant changes in the way goods are moved between the EU and the UK (Great Britain), argues Arne Mielken of Customs Manager Ltd.

The UK left the EU on 1 February 2020. Since 1 January 2021, the United Kingdom no longer participates in the EU's

  1. Single Market and

  2. Customs Union,

  3. Union policies and programmes.

  4. Union’s international agreements, like Free Trade Agreements

"It is essential that all stakeholders be made aware of this, and that they ensure their readiness for these broad and far-reaching changes, which will arise under any scenario, regardless of the outcome of negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom. There is no room for complacency or postponing readiness and adaptation measures in anticipation that an agreement would ensure continuity because numerous changes will be inevitable".
Message by EU Commission in 2020

Trade Barriers

The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU, the Single Market and the Customs Union created barriers to trade and cross-border exchanges that did not exist prior to 1 January 2021. But what changes exactly?

The EU has produced a detailed report.

Is my company affected?

The UK’s withdrawal from the EU affects your company if:

  • it sells goods or supplies services to the UK

  • it buys goods or receives services from the UK

  • it moves goods through the UK

  • it uses UK materials and goods to trade under preferential schemes with EU partner countries.

What about the EU-UK TCA?

On 24 December 2020, the EU and the UK reached an agreement on the terms of their relationship following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement was signed on 30 December 2020, was applied provisionally as of 1 January 2021 and entered into force on 1 May 2021.

The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement concluded between the EU and the UK sets out preferential arrangements in areas such as trade in goods and in services, digital trade, intellectual property, public procurement, aviation and road transport, energy, fisheries, social security coordination, law enforcement and judicial cooperation in criminal matters, thematic cooperation and participation in Union programmes. It is underpinned by provisions ensuring a level playing field and respect for fundamental rights.

For the trade of goods, it provides for zero tariffs and zero quotas on all trade of EU and UK goods that comply with the appropriate rules of origin.

Brochure on the EU-UK TCA
Download PDF • 294KB

Supply Chain disruptions persist

Yet, even the TCA did not end supply chain disruptions.

This is because the TCA by means matches the level of economic integration that existed while the UK was an EU Member State.

Compare EU membership with EUUK TCA
Download PDF • 197KB

The consequences of Brexit for cross border businesses, in particular, those trading goods across the EU and Great Britain (GB) were, as we can now see, unavoidable, broad and far-reaching, even with the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement in place.

What is the impact on cross-border trade?

For the purposes of customs, the UK is now treated as any other non-EU country. In particular, customs procedures and formalities apply to trade between the UK and the EU. This means concretely for businesses, at high level

  1. Businesses may need to file customs declarations when importing or exporting any goods to/from Great Britain (the UK, excluding Northern Ireland) or when moving your goods through Great Britain.

  2. They may need to provide security and safety data, in addition to the customs declaration.

  3. They need a special licence to import or export certain goods (e.g. waste, certain hazardous chemicals, GMOs).

  4. They need to comply with additional formalities if importing or exporting excise goods (alcohol, tobacco, or fuel) to/from Great Britain.

  5. They will have to comply with different VAT rules and procedures for transactions with Great Britain than for transactions within the EU and with Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is a special place

However, in accordance with the agreed Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, EU customs rules and procedures generally continue to apply to goods entering and leaving Northern Ireland.

Download the Guidance

Consequences of Brexit - Trade in Goods - EU Commission Guidance of 23 December 2020
Download PDF • 726KB

Where to find more help and support

About Customs Manager Ltd.

Working with us means having a Customs Advisor, Global Trade Expert and Export Controls Consultant, on speed-dial. If you are looking for a customs consultant UK and EU, let us help you trade effectively, efficiently and, of course, compliantly, wherever you want to go in the world.

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Entrust us with your training needs and help us to upskill you and your teams in English, German, French and Spanish. We offer pubic and private live, in-house and on-demand (study from anywhere and anytime) courses.

To complete our support for globally trading businesses, we are also a UK Customs Broker. We act as a customs clearance agent on behalf of many EU and UK businesses, assisting with customs documentation and all other formalities to ensure the customs clearance of our goods. Whether you’re seeking a long-term partner to look after your customs clearance or require support for a one-off shipment, please don’t hesitate to get in touch to discuss your requirements.

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This information is intended to serve as general guidance only and does not constitute legal advice. We cannot guarantee the quality, content, or accuracy of the information provided on this page as laws and information change regularly. Moreover, the application and impact of laws can vary widely based on the specific facts involved. This information should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a Customs Manager Ltd. professional.

In no circumstances will Customs Manager Ltd, be liable for any decision made or action was taken in reliance on the information contained within this document or for any consequential, special or similar damages, even if advised of the possibility of such damages.

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