November 16, 2020

Imports to Great Britain from the European Union after Transition

Insights UK Regional Division

This article is for businesses looking for useful tips on how to get Brexit-ready and is supported by our risk management partners, Health & Safety Click. 

The transition period ends on 31 December 2020. Many of the new rules and regulations apply just to England, Scotland and Wales – i.e. the countries within the island of Great Britain (GB). Because of its border with Ireland (and therefore the EU), the rules and regulations about trading between Northern Ireland, the EU and the rest of GB, are different.

Key Questions for Businesses to Consider

  • How will the rules for importing from the EU to GB change after transition?
  • How will customs, declarations and duties be affected?

Continuity plans for the end of the transition period will be unique to every organisation. However, there are some key questions your transition plan should answer to ensure the major issues are covered.

  • Do you know your GB Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number?
  • Does your business understand the impact of potential delays at the border on your supply chain, particularly if you import perishable goods or use a just-in-time supply chain?
  • Have you spoken to your customs broker, freight forwarder or logistics provider about how to make import declarations, or if you don’t have one, have you explored engaging one?
  • Have you considered whether you can stockpile any important products, to avoid having to import in the case of a no deal?
  • Have you investigated whether you are eligible to register for Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP) to import from the EU?
  • Have you familiarised yourself with the VAT rules for importing from the EU and considered any cash flow implications?
  • Have you considered how the UK’s no deal tariffs may impact the goods you import, whether you can take advantage of cheaper imports from outside the EU or whether you might face new competition from abroad?
  • Have you set up a duty deferment account if you import regularly?
  • Have you analysed the UK’s Global Tariff (UKGT) to understand the potential impact of its application to goods that you import into the UK and checked whether the country you are importing from has a preferential trade deal with the UK?

Government’s New Staged Approach to Imports from the EU

The government’s Border Operating Model introduces some of the most significant changes 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.
  • Traders will also need to consider how they account for and pay VAT on imported goods. Traders will then have up to six months to complete customs declarations. While tariffs will be payable where due on relevant goods, payments can be deferred until the customs declaration has been made.
  • UK safety and security declarations will not be required on imports for the first six months. Standard customs declarations will be needed from this date for controlled goods and excise goods like alcohol and tobacco products.
  • There will also be physical checks at the point of destination (or other approved premises) on all high-risk live animals and plants, and a requirement to pre-notify for certain movements. However, they will not be required to enter GB via a Border Control Post (BCP).
  • Export declarations and UK exit safety and security declarations will be required for all goods.
  • Traders importing and exporting goods using the Common Transit Convention will need to follow all the transit procedures. These will not be introduced in stages.
  • The goods vehicle movement service (GVMS) will be introduced from January for transit movements only.
  • Companies importing goods will need to adapt to new import tariff schedules, applying the UK’s new global tariff (UKGT) for all markets where the UK does not a preferential trading deal and checking the terms of any new preferential trade deal, including with the EU.

2. From April 2021:

  • All products of animal origin (POAO) – for example meat, honey, milk or egg products, and all regulated plants and plant products – will require pre-notification and the relevant health documentation.
  • Any physical checks will continue to be conducted at the point of destination until July 2021.

3. From July 2021:

  • Traders moving any goods will have to make full customs declarations at the point of importation and pay relevant tariffs.
  • Full safety and security declarations will be required, while commodities subject to sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls will have to be presented to BCPs. There will also be an increase in physical checks and the taking of samples.
  • SPS checks for animals, plants and their products will take place at GB Border Control Posts and not at the destination.
  • The GVMS will be in place for all imports, exports and transit movements at border locations which have chosen to introduce it.

After July, the trading conditions will default to the negotiated EU/UK FTA or no deal depending on the outcome of the negotiations.

Changes to VAT Treatment of Overseas Goods Sold to Customers from 1 January 2021

The following is an extract from the government website:

At the end of the transition period, the government will introduce a new model for the VAT treatment of goods arriving into Great Britain from outside of the UK. This will ensure that goods from EU and non-EU countries are treated in the same way and that UK businesses are not disadvantaged by competition from VAT free imports. It will also improve the effectiveness of VAT collection on imported goods and address the problem of overseas sellers failing to pay the right amount of VAT on sales of goods that are already in the UK at the point of sale.

This paper follows publication on 13 July 2020 of The Border Operating Model and expands on the sections covering the VAT treatment of consignments not exceeding £135 from 1 January 2021.

This paper does not cover matters specified in the Northern Ireland protocol. The government continues to work through the implications of the Northern Ireland Protocol, including in relation to VAT and excise. The government is committed to providing guidance on how the Northern Ireland Protocol will work ahead of the end of the transition period.

Subjects covered on the government website include:

  • Goods located outside the UK at the point of sale.
  • What the £135 threshold is based on.
  • Business to business sales.
  • Non-business sales.
  • Import VAT liability and exceptions to the new rules.
  • Obligations at the UK border.
  • Compliance arrangements and invoicing.
  • Consignments with multiple goods.
  • Transactions before 1 January 2021.
  • Imports of goods from Jersey and Guernsey.

Access the government website for details.

For more information on how Brexit may impact how your business imports goods after the transition, please visit

This is available to most Arch Online Policyholders, to see if your client has membership or to sign up to the website, contact your local Arch branch manager.  This article is intended for use by licensed insurance brokers and should be considered for general information purposes only.